The European Parliament held the third European Gender Equality Week from 24 to 30 October 2022. As in the two years before, the various Committees focused in particular on the subject of equality in their respective fields of competence.
Looking at the Gender Equality Index, annually published by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), it becomes evident that once again this year the EU and its Member States have failed to meet their own requirements concerning comprehensive equality. A value of 68.6 points has been reached on EU average, whereby 100 points would mean full equality of women and men. However, there are significant differences between individual Member States: whilst Austria with 68.8 points is almost exactly EU average, there are clear differences between front runner Sweden with a value of 83.9 and Greece, which comes in last with 53.4 points.
There is in particular a lot of catching up to do in view of equality, when it comes to positions held by political and business decision makers. Hence, with regard to holding political offices or sitting on executive and supervisory boards of private and public companies, women are still relatively strongly underrepresented. Against this background, reference has to be made to the Women on Boards Directive, agreed on at the beginning of June 2022, which provides for a mandatory women quota of at least 40 % of women on boards or alternatively a percentage of women of 33 % on average for executive and supervisory boards. In doing so, at least in this sector, an initial step has been taken towards equality.
Focus on equality in the Committees of the EU Parliament
The agendas of the respective Committees show the great importance the European Parliament attaches to Gender Equality Week. Hence, all of the Committees, which are responsible for a wide range of matters, are addressing equality issues. The Committee on International Trade (INTA) held a meeting, in which options were debated as to how trade relations could contribute to the international fight against the inequality of women and men. The Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) discussed gender inequalities in the energy sector, which not least against the background of the energy crisis and the target of European autonomy in this sector is of great importance for the future.
Need to catch up in respect of equality in the care sector particularly serious
The Committee on Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) and the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) held a special meeting to debate with EIGE representatives equality relevant aspects in connection with the European Care Strategy, which was launched at the beginning of September.
The care sector and early childcare are areas, where the prevailing inequality is worryingly evident. This has been confirmed by a survey based on 42,300 interviewees, conducted between June and July 2022, which examined the impact of the pandemic on informal care services. It found that women had to provide far more care work than men, which in turn has a direct impact on the labour market situation. Hence, every third non-working woman stated that informal care is the main reason for her not having a job. A quarter of women, who only have a part-time job also stated that providing care was the main reason for not working full-time. In general terms, 6 out of 10 working women stated that care work had restricted their employment at least on one occasion. In many cases, this is associated with training and further education opportunities, which the women were not able to take advantage of.
Thus, it is evident that there is a lot of catching up to do in the care sector to give women targeted and increased support. In AK’s view, a gender-sensitive and sustainable European Care Strategy is therefore essential to move closer to the EU’s equality target. With this in mind, an event, which has been organised by AK EUROPA, will take place in Brussels on 17 November. Taking part in the discussion as how to shape such a European Care Strategy, will be the Vice President of the EU Parliament, Evelyn Regner, AK-President Renate Anderl, ombudsman Bernhard Achitz and important European stakeholders.