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Brussels, 21 September 2010

Strategy for equality between women and men: Frequently asked questions

Inequalities between women and men damp economic growth and represent a waste of talent. Enhancing gender equality can have economic and business benefits. To achieve the Europe 2020 objectives of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, women’s potential and talents need to be used more extensively. The European Commission is committed to promoting gender equality in all its policies. The gender equality strategy sets out the Commission’s actions in five key areas between 2010 and 2015.

What are the goals of the new gender equality strategy?

When the Barroso II Commission took office in 2010, it strengthened its commitment to equality between women and men by adopting a “Women’s Charter,” (IP/10/237) which identified five priority areas for future action. These are equal economic independence; equal pay for equal work and work of equal value; equality in decision-making; dignity, integrity and an end to gender-based violence; and gender equality in external actions.

The Commission's gender equality strategy for the period 2010-2015 implements the Women's Charter through a series of key actions in these five areas.

It provides a coordinated framework for the main instruments needed to support gender equality in EU policies, including legislation, policy coordination, financial programmes, partnership and social and civil dialogue. It builds on the experience of the Roadmap for equality between women and men of 2006 and on a consultation process launched in 2009.

The actions proposed follow the dual approach of gender mainstreaming and specific measures.

Why does the EU need to address the gender equality issue?

Inequalities between women and men weigh on the economy and represent a waste of talent. There are economic and business benefits from enhancing gender equality1. To achieve the objectives of Europe 2020 of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth, women’s potential needs to be used more extensively and efficiently.

What are the main remaining problems in terms of gender equality?

There have been positive trends in gender equality over recent decades. However, important gender gaps remain and progress is too slow in many areas:

  • The employment rate for women has increased (currently 58.6% for the EU as a whole, up from 52% in 1998), but big gaps remain and women account for the vast majority of part-time workers (31.5% vs. 8.3% male part-time workers) and have more precarious jobs. The unbalanced division of domestic care responsibilities is still an obstacle for the women who want to move ahead in their careers.

  • The pay gap between women and men remains persistently wide: on average and across the whole economy, women in the EU earn 17.6% less per hour than men.

  • Women continue to be under-represented in decision-making processes and positions, in particular at the top level.

  • In Europe, an estimated one fifth to one quarter of all women have experienced physical violence at least once during their adult lives.

What are the strategy’s main actions?

The strategy identifies key actions and sets out a list, accompanied by a timetable, of more detailed activities for the next five years. They include:

  • Improving women's participation in the labour market to help achieve the Europe 2020 target employment rate of 75% for both men and women.

  • Launching a European Equal Pay Day to raise awareness of the gender pay gap and initiatives to promote gender equality in the workplace.

  • Encouraging labour market participation of both women and men by facilitating work-life balance.

  • Putting forward targeted initiatives to get more women into decision-making positions, both in political and economic life.

  • Presenting an EU-wide strategy to combat violence against women. It will also promote gender equality in asylum and health policies.

Is gender equality important for Europeans?

Across the EU, more than two thirds of women (68%) and more than half of men (57%) think that gender inequality is widespread in the European Union, according to a Eurobarometer survey on attitudes to gender equality published in March 2010.

A broad majority of Europeans (61%) believe the EU has an important role to play, and that decisions in this area should be taken jointly within the EU. The priority areas for action are "acts of violence against women" (62%), the "pay gap between women and men" (50%) and the "violation of women's rights in developing countries" (42%).

What is the EU's role in gender equality?

Since 1957, the Treaty of the European Community has provided a legal basis for policy and action on gender equality.

With the entry into force of the new Treaty of the European Union (2009), equality between women and men has been upgraded to the status of a "fundamental value" (Art.2 Treaty on European Union [TEU]) and an objective (Art.3 TEU) of the EU. Moreover, the EU (i.e. all its institutions and organs) is required to aim eliminating inequalities, and to promote equality between men and women in all its activities. In addition, the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights2 provides for equality between women and men and prohibits sex discrimination in all fields.

How will the Commission work with the EU partners?

The Commission will institute an annual top-level Gender Equality Dialogue. This will take place with the European Parliament, the Trio of Council presidencies, and key stakeholders – in particular the European social partners and civil society.

On the basis of annual reports on equality between women and men, the forum will monitor progress in implementing the Strategy and will identify remaining obstacles.

What budget is planned to support gender equality policies?

Until 2013, the current programmes such as Progress, the European Social Fund, the 7th Framework programme for research and Daphne will continue to provide funding for the implementation of gender equality policies.

The next EU Multiannual Financial Framework will be presented in the first half of 2011. It will provide support after 2013 for the implementation of actions included in the Strategy.

What is the role of the European Institute for Gender Equality?

The European Institute for Gender Equality is a European agency created to support the Member States and the EU in their efforts to promote gender equality, to fight sexual discrimination and to raise awareness about gender issues.

The Institute is expected to have a significant impact on efficient policy-making. Its tasks are to collect and analyse comparable data on gender issues, to develop methodological tools, in particular for the integration of the gender dimension in all policy areas, to facilitate the exchange of best practices and dialogue among stakeholders, and to raise awareness among EU citizens.

Eurobarometer survey on attitudes to domestic violence against women

How aware are Europeans of domestic violence?

98% of people across the EU are aware of domestic violence. This figure was 94% for the EU15 in the previous survey in 1999.

One respondent in four across the EU knows a woman among friends or in the family circle who is a victim of domestic violence, up from 19% in 1999. Meanwhile, one in five Europeans says they know of someone who commits domestic violence in their circle of friends and family (21%).

Across the EU, 78% of respondents believe that domestic violence is very or fairly common in their own country, including 91% in Italy, 89% in France, 87% in the UK, and 86% in Portugal. However, only 50% of respondents in the Czech Republic consider domestic violence to be common, with relatively low scores in Bulgaria (56%), Austria (63%) and Germany (64%) too.

What do Europeans think should be done?

While 78% of Europeans recognise that domestic violence is a common problem, 84% of respondents stated that domestic violence is unacceptable and should always be punishable by law. This number increased from 63% in 1999 to 86% in 2010 for the 15 EU Member States who participated in the original survey (before the 2004 enlargement of the EU).

The survey revealed that a clear majority of EU citizens believe that, in addition to legal measures, providing information to the victims of domestic violence and to the public as a whole is a good way of tackling the problem.

87% of those surveyed believe that the EU should be involved in the fight against domestic violence.

What does the Commission plan to do about the problem?

In March 2011, the Commission will launch a comprehensive strategy for combating violence against women, including an EU-wide campaign to raise awareness of the issues surrounding domestic violence and how to prevent it.

Under the EU action plan for justice policies 2010-2014, the Commission already supports the protection of victims of crime, including women victims of violence and genital mutilation.

For more than 10 years, the DAPHNE programme has been funding actions to combat violence against children, young people and women, and to support and protect victims and groups at risk. DAPHNE fills an important gap in the combat and has funded hundreds of projects in this field since its establishment. DAPHNE makes a difference especially by providing direct support to the organisations in the field and promoting exchange of good practices.

Further information

Press pack including:

  • Communication on the Strategy for Equality between Women and Men (2010-2015)

  • Annex: Actions to implement the Strategy for Equality between Women and Men (2010-2015)

  • Background document accompanying the Strategy for Equality between Women and Men (2010-2015)

  • Special Eurobarometer 344: Domestic violence against women – full report

  • Special Eurobarometer 344: Domestic violence against women – country factsheets

Homepage of Viviane Reding, Vice-President and Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship:

1 :

Council Conclusions on Gender equality: strengthening growth and employment, 2980th Employment,

social policy, health and consumers affairs Council meeting, 30.11.2009

2 :

OJ C 303/1 Art. 23

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