EU2020 and European Semester

European Semester: a driver for equality between women and men?

The EWL continues to call for gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting in the European Semester.

[Brussels 11 July 2019] As part of the European Semester, every year, the European Commission issues Country-Specific Recommendations (CSRs) which aim to provide guidance to Member States on macro-economic, budgetary and structural policies. The Country-Specific Recommendations are tailored-made economic and budgetary policy recommendations from the European Commission to each Member States and they are expected to translate the recommendations into their budgetary and policy plan and implement them in the next 12/18 months. These recommendations are discussed among the governments in the Council, endorsed by EU leaders at a summit in June and formally adopted by the national finance ministers in July.

The EWL has been monitoring the Country-Specific Recommendations since they were introduced almost a decade ago. What we have seen throughout the years is that the Commission have consistently failed to issue recommendations that would ensure substantive equality between women and men in Europe. The CSRs have been identified as an entry point for mainstreaming gender into the EU macroeconomic framework and as an opportunity to provide guidance to Member States on implementing gender budgeting [1]. However, the macroeconomic priorities that have guided the CSRs have stemmed from a narrow understanding of economic growth and –especially in recent years– have primarily focused on austerity. As a result, a gender perspective have been practically missing from the CSRs.

The European Commission have very frequently issued CSRs without considering how these will impact on gender equality. At the same time, this has reinforced the view that gender gaps in employment, pay, pensions or education do not have an effect on economic growth, competitiveness or demographic change. [2]

For example, many CSRs focus on women’s labour market participation and childcare; boosting childcare provision is put forward as an enabling factor to increase women’s labour market participation, while they fail to acknowledge (or much less, propose measures to address) the unequal sharing of the burden of care between women and men. Similarly, some Member States have been required to drastically reduce public sector spending. Considering that a majority of public sector workers and welfare recipients are women, feminist economists have exposed how cuts in public sector services have negatively affected women in regards to job losses and by transferring public services such as care back to them. In a nutshell, women have been the most affected by these short-sighted economic measures.

Budgets mirror our political priorities. This is why the EWL wants equality between women and men to be a key element of the European macroeconomic framework and calls for gender mainstreaming and gender budgeting in the Country-Specific Recommendations. Furthermore, we call on the European Commission to look beyond the female employment rate and pay more attention to how gender inequalities in the labour market are linked to gender inequalities in other spheres, especially within the home. In addition, more attention needs to be paid to specific groups of women such as migrant, disabled, older women and single parents, notwithstanding some of these groups are referenced in some national recommendations.

Take a look at the EWL’s quick mapping of the 2019 Country-Specific Recommendations from a gender perspective.

2019 Country-Specific Recommendations
3 CSRs specifically make reference to women (labour participation of women) Austria, Czech Republic and Italy
Only 1 CSRs addresses the gender pay gap Estonia (same as 2018)
1 CSRs refer to ‘second earners’ Germany
7 CSRs refer to childcare and/or associate women with childcare Austria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ireland, Italy, Poland, Slovakia
11 CSRs refer to pension reform but do not refer to closing the gender pension gap Croatia, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain
11 countries make no reference to women/gender equality, even indirectly, in the country reports or CSRs Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Slovenia and United Kingdom

For the vast majority of countries, while the CSRs do not specifically address gender equality issues, the recommendations are relevant to and should be followed up and monitored from a gender perspective.

For further details on each country CSRs, see attachment.


[1] European Institute for Gender Equality (2018), Gender budgeting. Mainstreaming gender into the EU budget and macroeconomic policy framework. Publications Office of the European Union. Available at: https://eige.europa.eu/publications/gender-budgeting-mainstreaming-gender-eu-budget-and-macroeconomic-policy-framework
[2] Ibid.

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