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MEPs say achieving gender equality is a key element in eradicating poverty

[European Parliament, Brussels, 28 January 2011] On 27 January, members of the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality committee adopted by overwhelming majority an own-initiative report aiming at reducing female poverty in the EU, as women face greater risk of poverty than men. To eradicate poverty, a gender specific perspective should be adopted in all common policies. In addition, Commission and Member States should take necessary measures to eliminate gender inequalities in employment as part of the EU 2020 Strategy.

The report on ’The face of the female poverty in the EU’, drafted by Rovana PLUMB (S&D, RO) was adopted by 23 in favour, 1 against and no abstentions.

MEPs pointed out that nearly 85 million persons in the European Union were at risk of poverty in 2008, and it is estimated that the figure would rise to 120 million, stressing that those living in poverty are for the most part women, a situation brought about by unemployment, casual labour, low wages, pensions below the minimum subsistence level, and the widespread difficulty of obtaining access to good public services. MEPs strongly encouraged establishing as an objective the reduction of the gender pay gap by 1% each year in order to achieve a target of 10% reduction by 2020.

The Women’s Rights committee welcomed the Commission initiative on a ‘European platform against poverty’ and called on Commission and Member States to promote the gender dimension in this platform and to adopt a gender specific perspective as a key component of all common policies and national programs to eradicate poverty and combat social exclusion. Furthermore, Member States should take into account the gender dimension in their plans for recovery from the recession.

Support of those in need

In its report, the Women’s Rights committee called on the Member States to provide appropriate social benefits for women and men who take care of elderly, sick or disabled relatives, adding that the Commission should maintain the financial allocation that may be used among civil society organisations in fighting and curbing the effects of women’s poverty.

Increased access to financial resources

Noting that women entrepreneurs’ access to credit is limited, being a major obstacle to their professional development and economic independence, MEPs welcomed the establishment of a European microfinance facility and called in this framework for specifically tailored actions, in particular technical assistance and back-up measures, oriented towards ensuring increased access and availability of microfinance for women who face difficulties entering the labour market or want to establish themselves as self-employed workers or launch their own micro-enterprises.

MEPs underlined that adequately increased financing for and effective usage of the European Social Fund (ESF) should be ensured to provide adequate resources for measures to improve labour market access and combating unemployment and for measures and activities under the Social Inclusion Strategy and the ‘Europe 2020’ flagship initiative on combating poverty and social exclusion in favour of disadvantaged and vulnerable persons, especially women. Targeted funds should be earmarked, within the new budgetary framework, for job creation and social inclusion.

Labour market and pension rights

MEPs criticised that economic recovery projects mainly focus on male dominated employment. Therefore, Member States should take into account the gender dimension in their plans for recovery from the recession by promoting and boosting the employment of women. Access to high quality employment based on the flexicurity principle is a way to avoid and combat poverty, said the report.

Women do not always fulfil the principle of continuous remunerated employment because of interruptions to their work. Being penalised because of discrimination on the labour market, in particular because of the wage gap, maternity leave and part-time work, or as a result of taking a break from or stopping work to take on family responsibilities, women face greater risk of poverty than men, particularly in old age. Member State governments should give recognition to the bringing up of children and ensure that period counts towards a pension, thereby enabling women to benefit from full pensions.

In the chair: Edite Estrela (S&D, PT)

Source: European Parliament Press Service; Email:

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