Years of debate, never any obligation. Now, a new attempt.

IF – 04/2020

Two women, Věra Jourová, Vice-President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency, and Helena Dalli, Commissioner for Equality, had the opportunity to present the European Strategy for Equality between Women and Men in mid-March.

The Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 sets out key actions for the next five years and states that the European Commission will mainstream a gender equality perspective into all EU policies and Commission initiatives.

Wide differences between countries in terms of equality

Not a single EU Member State has achieved full equality between women and men, and despite a number of mostly non-binding national measures, women are still disadvantaged in many areas of life. This starts with difficulties reconciling work and family life due to a lack of childcare facilities with little flexibility in terms of opening hours or a complete lack of all-day care in rural areas. This in turn leads to women doing more part-time rather than full-time work.

Further reasons for closing the gender pay gap and pension gap include the significant differences in pay between men and women, and poverty among women in old age due to low pension entitlements that threaten their livelihoods. The average gender pay gap across Europe is 16% and the pension gap as high as 35%.

Towards a Union of Equality

Gender equality policy and its objectives have failed due to lax implementation in the Member States. Substantial improvements in gender equality are only being achieved slowly, with gender differences in work, wages, long-term care and pensions evident in all Member States. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced the strategy prior to taking office and it was also included in the European Union’s Work Programme (see article Feb 2020).

Dual-approach Strategy

The Gender Equality Strategy will be implemented using two approaches:

1. Implementation of targeted measures to achieve full gender equality.

2. Integration of a gender perspective into all EU policy areas.

What measures are being planned?

The Commission has ambitious plans which focus in particular on important issues such as ending gender-based violence, promoting women’s participation in the labour market and ensuring equal opportunities and pay. Despite higher educational qualifications, women have significant career breaks due to juggling their work and family commitments. This leads to fewer opportunities for career advancement.

Additional step towards pay equality

At the same time, the European Commission has launched a public consultation on pay transparency to eliminate the gender pay gap. It is expected that binding measures as a means of further closing the pay gap will be presented by the end of the year.