How can they be overcome?

WN – 01/2021

A recently published study, commissioned by the EU parliament’s committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM), addressed the issue of precarious working in the EU from a gender as well as an intersectional perspective.

In this context, precarious work is understood to be employment that meets at least one of the following criteria: very low pay, low number of working hours or poor job security, e.g. in the form of fixed-term contracts, jobs with a low level of requirements, insufficient social protection or a lack of social rights.

Surplus of women in caring professions

As a result, it has become clear that women, especially young women with a migration background or a low level of education, are particularly at risk of being permanently employed in precarious forms of work. One of the main reasons for this is the disproportionately high presence of women in caring professions as well as domestic work. In particular, these sectors have been and continue to be significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is mainly women who also have to provide care for their children, this being triggered by the coronavirus crisis.

Options for action

Based on the results, various recommendations will be made to improve the situation of women in precarious work. Among them are proposals with a view to EU legislation: here, particular reference will be made to the issue of wage transparency, which aims to highlight the lifelong consequences of gender pay gaps. Proposed amendments to existing EU regulations, e.g. in relation to the work/life balance directive, are also intended to further improve the protection of single parents, who often work in precarious forms of employment.

Political outlook

As early as March last year, the Commission presented its 2020-2025 Strategy for Gender Equality. In a resolution on this strategy, the European Parliament called for the EC to present binding measures on wage transparency to close the gender pay gap, amongst other things. A corresponding Commission proposal had already been announced for the end of 2020, but is still pending.


Such measures and other ones, which will improve the working conditions and especially the wage conditions of people in precarious employment, will ultimately help to increase the headcount of employees in contributory employment and relieve the burden on the social security systems in the member states.