AGE calls for an EU Gender Equality Strategy after 2015

AGE Platform Europe has responded to the consultation on the Gender Equality Strategy after 2015. Many doubts have been cast whether there will be a renewal for the last Strategy, reaching from 2010 to 2015. AGE considers that there are many challenges for gender equality concerning women and men of all ages, and that coordinated EU action is necessary in this domain.

Some important steps until now

Gender equality is one of the most ancient principles in the EU treaties and gave rise to many important legislative initiatives, such as the Employment equality directive to combat gender discrimination at work and the gender equality directive ensuring equal access to goods and services, including financial services. The EU has taken decisive actions to align retirement ages of men and women, creating the opportunity for women to work and to build up pension rights like men.

Many remaining challenges

Gender pension gap

However, the list of challenges is still long. The gender pension gap, i.e. the difference between average pensions of men and of women, stands at 38.5%, and has been staying the same across the EU since 2010. This is not only a challenge for gender equality as such, but also a threat on older women, who generally live longer and have to cope with lower incomes.

Women and care

A reason for the gender pension gap is the insufficient provisions to compensate for times that mainly women spend caring for children, family members with disabilities or long-term care needs. This draws down their opportunities to participate in paid employment and are not compensated for in later life.

While much progress has been noted in recent years concerning child care in the EU, care for persons with long-term care needs and support for informal carers has not been stepped up sufficiently – a necessary process if the EU wants to adapt to demographic change. The EU, through the European Semester’s policies on public spending, has a key role to play in ensuring that accessible and affordable quality care services are developed across the EU.

Work-family life balance

By regulating maternity and paternity leaves on EU level, the EU has contributed to a minimum standard of working conditions, protecting employment of mothers and fathers and health of mothers and children. To reconcile work and family life, more has to be done, though: this is why AGE calls for a comprehensive package on the reconciliation of work and family life, including regulations for parental and carer’s leave, training and respite facilities for informal carers.

As pension reforms reduce the capacity of first pillar pension systems to compensate for gender inequalities in household and care tasks, and second and third-pillar pensions are being stepped up, the EU should respond in a coherent, comprehensive manner – otherwise, it will face an increasing problem of old-age poverty among women in the future.

For further information, please contact Philippe Seidel from the AGE

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