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Brussels, 7 March 2014
Commissioner Andor's statement on International Women's Day – 8 March
The past decades have seen unprecedented progress in improving women's rights and in increasing opportunities for women in all professional sectors. However this does not mean that equality has been achieved.
Women still fare worse than men on the labour market. On average, women have more part-time jobs, are overrepresented (or underrepresented) in certain occupations or sections, receive lower wages, have fewer opportunities to find work and as a result receive lower pensions. Although the gender gap has reduced slightly in the past years, this is mainly because male-dominated sectors were hit most by the crisis.
I firmly believe that progress towards true gender equality involves creating opportunities for both women and men and tackling gender segregation in the labour market. This will allow us to move from a model with one male earner and one female carer to a dual model where both the man and woman are earners and carers. For this to happen, we need to develop workplaces with flexible working arrangements, promote incentives to share unpaid work between partners and make affordable childcare available during longer hours.
Balancing work and family life is often wrongly perceived solely as a concern for women. Many men are willing to devote more time to childcare or household work but may run against obstacles such as a culture of long working hours and the lack of more flexible working arrangements. A labour market that allows unpaid work to be shared more equally between partners by encouraging more men to work part-time or take parental leave could help to reduce the gender employment gap.
Ultimately, a decisive shift can only come about when we realise that gender equality is not a topic of minority interest, but one which affects us all. This is the reason I have signed up to the 50/50 campaign which calls for equal representation of women and men in all EU institutions. On the occasion of the 2014 International Women's Day, I would urge all those who support gender equality to join this initiative.