EWL members from Croatia, Czechia, Greece, Hungary and Poland together with Joanna Maycock, our Secretary General, participated in a round table review with European Commission officials to provide their inputs to the 2019 European Semester Country Reports from a gender equality perspective. They were invited to provide specific feedback on the issue of childcare provision. Representatives from EU-level NGOs also participated in the discussion.
This was a first opportunity for EWL members to share directly with European Commission officials their expert opinion of the situation on the ground and how the gender perspective could be strengthened in future Country Reports, and more widely in the European Macro-Economic Framework. Some of the main topics raised by our members included:
A gender and intersectional perspective needs to be strengthened: gender equality must go beyond the very important issue of increasing female participation in the labour market. EWL members called for the use of gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting throughout the European Semester and to consider the multiple discrimination and inequalities that women face.
Barcelona targets are not being met in many Member States and there are huge differences between countries: in several Member States there is a persistent need for high quality and affordable preschool childcare (particularly so for children from 0 to 3 years), for example, in Czechia and Slovakia less than 5% of children under 3 are cared for in formal childcare structures (EU-SILC 2016).
In 2002, at the Barcelona Summit, the European Council set two targets for Member States with regard to the availability of high quality and affordable childcare facilities by 2010:
At least 90% of children between 3 years old and the mandatory school age; and
At least 33% of children under 3 years of age.
EWL members also emphasised that the Country Reports lack any feminist approach to demographic shifts such as Europe’s aging population, migration, low fertility rates and the links with care provision.
EWL members call for a holistic understanding of care with a life-course approach: care does not only consist of childcare, but encompasses eldercare, healthcare, care for persons with disabilities.
The gender pay gap and gender pension gap are persistent issues throughout the EU Member States.
Finally, EWL members pointed out that policies at national and European level are not taking into consideration or promoting the equal involvement and role of fathers and second parents in child care.
All participants stressed the importance of engaging civil society organisations in policy-making and providing a space for dialogue at EU level. The Commission has committed to strengthen this dialogue, which must be met with appropriate funding and support, especially in those Member States where conservative governments have shrunk the space for civil society organisations, particularly women’s organisations.
EWL Secretariat and its members take on the Commission’s pledge to establish contacts, share information and engage civil society at European, national and local level in the elaboration and review of Country reports and throughout the European Semester.
The feedback provided by our members are in line with the demands in our Manifesto for a Feminist Europe as part of our campaign 50/50: Women for Europe – Europe for Women for the European Parliament election in May 2019, particularly our demands on women’s equal economic independence.
A EUROPE THAT GUARANTEES ALL WOMEN’S EQUAL ECONOMIC INDEPENDENCE
Our calls to Europe:
- Guarantee all women’s economic independence, including individual rights to social protection, taxation and address in- work poverty, increasing precarious work; value and improve the working conditions in sectors where women workers are predominant by strengthening, monitoring, and revising existing EU legislation;
- Adopt a ‘care guarantee’ to address care needs throughout the life-cycle, as a valuable part of the functioning of society and invest in the care economy by directing investments in the EU budget in this area. Implement gender budgeting as a tool of gender mainstreaming to ensure that all EU money is delivering on equality between women and men;
- Ensure that the macro economic framework, including the post Europe 2020 Strategy and European Semester architecture, specifically seek to progress equality between women and men and in particular women’s economic independence, in carrying out gender impact assessments of macro-economic policies prior to issuing country-specific recommendations;
- Adopt European targets for care infrastructures for dependent, elderly and disabled persons;
- All measures must address the multiple and intersecting discrimination faced by women with disabilities, from ethnic minorities, of different socio-economic and educational background and younger or elderly women, whose access to services, decent work and funding is especially limited, and whose contributions are all too often overlooked.
Our calls to Member States:
- Guarantee women’s and men’s financial security and independence while they take care of someone else including paid statutory leave and legal provisions protecting women and men against any form of discrimination based on maternity/paternity/ parental/carers leave;
- Speed up the implementation of the Barcelona targets for the availability of affordable, accessible and high quality childcare;
- Introduce a 5-10% annual target to reduce the gender pay gap and address the current gender pension gap, namely, by introducing ‘care credits’ to take into account women’s contribution to the economy and ensure that for present and future generations, care credits are also provided to men;
- Adopt equal non-transferable leave for parents, safeguarding the maternity leave women are entitled to;
- Allocate sufficient funding to guarantee the quality of care services and the dignity of the work of carers in their professional capacity and as informal carers.