Gender affected differently by energy poverty

IF – 03/2023

Energy poverty has become a social issue in Europe. Many households are struggling to meet the sharp rise in energy costs. A study by Eurofound from 2022 found that single mothers and single women in particular are more likely to default on their energy bills than single men. In the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM), Members of Parliament have now discussed the study.

Cause: Gender pay gap

Women often earn less than men because of their employment conditions. The lower average income is due to a higher rate of low-wage, part-time or precarious employment conditions. The Gender Pay Gap defines the difference in income between the sexes in the EU. The difference is still 13 per cent across Europe. This means that women earn on average 13 per cent less per hour than their male colleagues. The gap is only closing very slowly despite many women's policy measures, such as the introduction of a European minimum wage or the Measures for salary transparency.

Social inclusion of women

The economic crisis across Europe, in the form of higher electricity and gas prices, is having a negative impact on women's overall economic and social participation, health and fundamental rights. Especially when it comes to their own health, women often refrain from taking care of themselves. Women are also more ashamed to apply for social benefits. In addition, many women are often pushed into part-time employment or even unable to pursue paid employment at all due to a lack of care options for family members, such as children and care-giving family members. The pandemic in particular acted as a brake here when it came to career and self-sufficiency. Many women had to reduce their working hours and were often not able to top up again.

European Climate Social Fund

In order to react quickly politically, the European Commission has proposed a climate social fund in the course of the Fit for 55 package. The European Parliament already voted overwhelmingly in favour of the Climate Social Fund back in the summer and it is a multi-billion euro fund negotiated jointly by Members of Parliament David Casa (EPP/MLT) and Esther de Lange (EPP/NL). More than 70 billion euros are to be invested in energy-efficiency measures for households and small businesses. The objective of this policy is to realise a long-term reduction in energy demands and consumption in European households. The fund is intended to finance specific measures to combat energy and mobility poverty in both the short and longer term.

The establishment of the Climate Social Fund aims to ensure that every European, especially those in vulnerable situations such as women have access to affordable energy. This can help to relieve the financial burden on women both temporarily and in the long term.