Employment rates for women in the European Union are still “significantly” behind those of men and unemployment rates higher. Pay differences are still unacceptably large –according to Anna Diamantopoulou, the EU’s Employment Commissioner.
Speaking at an informal Council held in Nörrkoping, Sweden on 22 January, the Commissioner called on member state governments to enforce rules on equal pay and conditions in Europe. She challenged governments to provide more and better childcare facilities throughout Europe to help lift obstacles to women's entry or return to the labour market. She also appealed to member states to “gender-comb” their tax and social security systems in order to break down disincentives to full participation of women in the jobs market.
At EU level, women earn on average 83% of men's hourly pay, the Commissioner told ministers. She added that the gap was greater in the private sector (76%) than the public sector (89%), and greater in agriculture and industry than in services.
She also pointed out that in 1998, in the ten member states for which data was available, 71.6% of women aged 20-50 without children were in employment compared to only 51.6% of women with children aged under six years.
In contrast, men tended to increase their participation in the labour market when children were present. According to EU data, some 90.8% of men aged 20-50 with children have a job compared with 85.3% without children.