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The gender gap in employment

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

Author of the article

Author: Alessia Fucile

Date of publication: 21/03/2023

Gender Gap

Gender equality in employment is one of the EU values. Actually, this is why the principle of equal pay for equal work was established by the Treaty of Rome, in 1957.

Of course, this is thanks to the determination and commitment of the EU institutions. That's why Europe is currently one of the fairest and safest continents for women.

However, women remain less likely to participate in the labor market than men. Therefore there is still a long way towards their full equality and empowerment.

EU actions

In 1961, the introduction of the European Social Charter was one of the first measures taken on behalf of women. Afterwards, it was revised in 1996.

Article 20 of this treaty establishes the rights of gender equality in job opportunities and working conditions (including remuneration). It also ensures support for re-employability in the event of job loss. What's more it protects equality between women and men in decision-making positions.

In 2010, the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) was founded. In particular, it's a body in charge of elaborating statistics about gender equality in the EU. Also, it publishes an annual report on the progress in this field.

The main purpose of this institution is to verify the respect of gender equality legislation in the EU member States. This way, it helps them and civil society organizations to take right and informed decisions.

In 2019, the European Parliament adopted a parental and paternity leave directive. This action aimed to increase female employment through incentives. For example, it subsidizes child care services.

gender gap, equality, EU, legislation, pay gap

On 21st January 2021, MEPs called on the EU Commission to draw up an action plan. In particular, the main goal was to reduce the gender pay gap over the following five years. And most recently, in November 2022, the European Parliament introduced a directive about women working. This was ensuring that women cover at least 40% of non-executive director posts or 33% of all director posts.

Some statistical data

In 2021, according to Eurostat (European Statistical Office), the gender employment gap was still very evident. In fact, the rate of women aged 20-64 with a job reached 67%. Actually, this is 11 percentage points (pp) lower than that of men, whose rate of employment reached 78%.

In the same year, the biggest gender employment gap was recorded in Lithuania (1.0 pp). Then, Finland (3.5 pp) and Latvia (4.3 pp) were following. On the contrary, Sweden resulted to be the country with the highest women employment rate (80%).

Moreover, in 2022 Eurostat statistic has shown that 28% of employed women work part-time. This happens in almost all EU member States.

Another important gender gap is the difference in pay. For example, in 2022 a German study has estimated that women earn 30% less than men. So, there is a different gender pay highlighting that women earn less than men.

The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on women

The COVID-19 pandemic affected with no doubt a lot of people of both genders. However, some surveys have shown that women have suffered more. This led to the loss of balance between women's private and working life.

In fact, the the main causes of this balance loss are the drastic increase in teleworking and unpaid care work. Basically, organizational independence and flexibility associated with smart working has lead to more work as a whole and more working hours.

Another negative aspect is the difficulty to concentrate due to family responsibilities. Apart form that, we should forget the potential presence at home of children in distance learning.

According to some studies related to women’s rights, COVID-19 pandemic prevented them from devoting special attention to their families. As a result, this affected their mental health, mainly increasing anxiety and worries.

EU legislation and internal law

gender gap, equality, EU, legislation, pay gap

EU member States must ensure the effective application of Community law about gender equality in employment. This can happen throughout a correct transposition in national Constitutions’ rules.

In a true democracy, talents, skills and creativity of both men and women should be enhanced by any means. As a result, there wil be a society guaranteeing a better quality of life to everybody.

So, countries wishing to become EU members must fully embrace the fundamental right of gender equality. What's more, they should strive to include this field of EU legislation in their internal law.

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