Gender equality in social security: AGE highlights obstacles in response to a consultation

AGE has submitted its response on the European Commission’s public consultation on the directive dealing with equal treatment for men and women in matters of social security. The directive, dating back to 1979, includes many exceptions to the principle of equal treatment that should not be linked to gender, but to other factors. AGE responds highlighting the need to promote gender equality in the labour market and in domestic tasks and the specific problems of same-sex couples in regard to social security.

Equality directive in social security from 1979

The 1979 directive stipulates that men and women should be treated equally in matters of social security and includes a number of exceptions to this rule: protection of women on the grounds of maternity, determination of pension age, acquisition of benefit entitlements after career breaks for child care, increases of pensions for a dependent wife and the granting survivor’s pensions. These provisions were introduced mostly to allow for positive discrimination for women who interrupted their careers for child care.

Link spouses’ benefits to actual family arrangement, not to sex

AGE’s position is that many of these entitlements should not be excluded from the principle of gender equality, as they relate to the care of children and economic dependency in a couple rather than to the actual gender. While it is true that women bear family tasks more often than men, advantages in attributing pension rights, survivor’s pensions etc. should be relative to the time actually spent to educate children and the actual income differences in a couple. This is to favour a better balance between work and family life for both genders, which might also help to equalise the high differences in pension income and poverty rates.

Gender equality more than equality in different-sex couples

AGE also indicated that the directive only regards discrimination on the basis of being a man or a woman, without mentioning the importance of sexual identity. Many same-sex couples face difficulties as it is not possible for them to benefit from survivor’s pensions or for family benefits for a partner’s child, which goes against the principle of gender equality.

Call for a better balance between work and private life

AGE also reminded its contributions to close the gender gap in pension, including its call for a better balance between work and family life, including provisions for a leave arrangement to people who assume caring responsibilities to family members.

More information:

For more information, please contact Philippe Seidel Leroy at AGE

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