Eurocommissaris Spidla: 'Meer vrouwen aan het werk is impuls voor de economie' (en) - EU monitor

EU monitor
Vrijdag 5 juni 2020

Eurocommissaris Spidla: 'Meer vrouwen aan het werk is impuls voor de economie' (en)

Met dank overgenomen van Zweeds voorzitterschap Europese Unie 2e helft 2009 i, gepubliceerd op dinsdag 13 oktober 2009.

“I am convinced that having more women in the labour market contributes to lasting economic growth," says Vladimír Špidla i, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities. Mr Špidla will take part in the conference “What does gender equality mean for economic growth and employment?" which starts on Thursday this week. The conference will discuss how to strengthen the gender equality perspective in the EU's common strategy for sustainable economic growth and employment. Nyamko Sabuni, Minister of Integration and Gender Equality, and Cecilia Malmström, Minister for EU Affairs, are co-charing the meeting.

Vladimír Špidla and Nyamko Sabuni

Photographer: Pawel Flato

Nyamko Sabuni

Why is it important to reinforce the gender equality perspective in the EU's common strategy for sustainable economic growth and employment, the post-2010 Lisbon agenda?

NS: "Women still earn less, own less and have less power than men. Moreover, in purely economic terms, a society loses from a lack of equality between women and men. The EU stands to benefit economically from giving a gender equality perspective a more prominent role in its growth strategy."

VS: "In the face of the economic downturn we must not let up in the efforts which have been made in this area. Our economies must reap the full potential of all our talents if we are to face up to global competition. Gender equality is not only a fundamental right, but is also good for business. Even in the current difficult circumstances, I am convinced that having more women in the labour market contributes to lasting economic growth."

"According to a study to be discussed during the conference, there are major benefits to be gained from enhancing gender equality. A calculation of the maximum value of these gains shows that if gender gaps in employment were eliminated, GDP in the EU Member States could increase by between 15 and 45 per cent."

What are the major challenges facing the Member States in the EU's ongoing work for gender equality in the labour market?

NS: "Different countries face different challenges. For example, there's access to childcare, the design of the tax system, the need to combat discrimination and changing attitudes. The very fact that there are significant differences makes it important to meet so we can learn from one another and find ways of making progress so that women and men have the same conditions and opportunities in working life."

VS: "Over the past decade, much progress has been made regarding female participation in the labour market, with the employment rate for women having increased from 52 per cent in 1998 to 59 per cent in 2008, close to the Lisbon target for 2010, which is set at 60 per cent. However, compared with the rate for men, large gaps remain in quantitative (13.7 percentage points) as well as qualitative terms. Women still earn 17 per cent less than men, they are often in lower quality jobs or involuntary part-time jobs. All of these issues (gender pay gap, involuntary part-time, gender segregation of the labour market) have to be addressed by the Member States."

What impact have the economic recession and the financial crisis had on gender equality in the EU labour market, in your view?

VS: "The unemployment rate for women has traditionally been higher than that for men, but the gap has narrowed as male-dominated sectors such as the car industry, banking, and construction sectors have been hit hard by the crisis."

What would the consequences be for me, as an EU citizen, of deeper and more sustainable EU cooperation on gender equality in the area of economic growth and employment?

VS: "The benefits of gender equality are felt by society as a whole. We must understand that economic goals go beyond growth to also include quality of life or well-being. Let's take for example parental leave. On the basis of a social partners' agreement, the European Commission made a proposal on 30 July 2009 to improve provisions for parental leave, which in some countries is still very low. The proposal suggests giving both fathers and mothers the right to 4 months of parental leave, of which three can be transferred to the partner. The fourth month must be taken by the other partner. This might encourage fathers to take more responsibility at home. That way more women would be able to remain in the labour market and pursue a career. The proposal should be adopted by Member States by the end of November 2009."

What are your expectations for the meeting in Stockholm? What do want to see as an outcome from the conference?

VS: "I hope that there will be a fruitful discussion and exchange of good practice between participants. I hope that by showing clear links between high levels of economic activity (GDP per capita) and high female employment rates, we will manage to further develop gender equality policies even in times of deep economic crisis."

NS: "I hope that as the country holding the Presidency, we can play a part in setting the agenda for the design of growth strategies in the EU. It goes without saying that the gender equality perspective must be given greater prominence in this context. It is my hope that the conclusions from the meeting will be an important contribution to formulating the EU's future growth strategy."