Open letter to the ECOFIN Council calling for a long-term EU budget and recovery funds that advances women’s rights and equality between women and men

Open letter to the ECOFIN Council
calling for a long-term EU budget and recovery funds that advances women’s rights and equality between women and men

3 November 2020
Brussels, Belgium

Dear Finance Ministers of EU Member States,

In copy: Members of the Committee of the Permanent Representatives of the Governments of the Member States to the European Union (Coreper II)

The European Women’s Lobby (EWL), the largest umbrella organisation in Europe representing over 2,000 women’s associations, is writing to you in regards to the negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) 2021-2027, including the EU’s recovery plans Next Generation EU (NGEU). Our members throughout Europe have already been calling on their governments to adopt an EU budget, which will ensure progress is made on equality between women and men.

Ahead of this week’s Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) meeting on Wednesday 4 November, we would like to reiterate our call for a robust EU budget with the ambition to ensure maximum outcomes in public spending by closing inequality gaps between women and men, in promoting women’s full participation in all areas.

At the onset of the public health pandemic across Europe, women have sustained our societies and continue to do so as the social and economic consequences unfold. Last week, the European Institute for Gender Equality’s (EIGE) launched the 2020 Gender Equality Index, which revealed that it will take another 60 years to achieve equality if we continue at the same pace.1 We are concerned that the impacts of COVID-19 will only set this progress back further, given the surge of male violence against women, increased rates of women’s unemployment, heightened risks of poverty and over-dependence on women’s paid and unpaid care work. EU Member States now have the opportunity to reverse this trend.

Together with our national member organisations, we demand that spending priorities are gender mainstreamed and that gender budgeting is applied to the EU budget, including NGEU. This is necessary to ensure that all public expenditure is shaped through sex-disaggregated data and ex-ante and ex-post gender impact assessments and that the design and disbursing of funds will have equal outcomes for women and men to close the persistent gaps highlighted in the Gender Equality Index.

Ensuring EU fundamental values, specifically equality between women and men as per Article 2 TEU and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, must be made conditional when accessing EU funds. Advancing EU fundamental values, equality and non-discrimination must be at the core of the EU’s recovery plans and long-term budget, to ensure women and girls, particularly those on the margins of society, can fully access and participate in all upcoming opportunities as Europe heads towards a more caring, green and digital society. This must also include sustainable and sufficient resourcing to women’s essential services and civil society organisations who are working to promote the EU’s fundamental values on the ground.

We urge EU Member States to support the calls of the European Parliament and agree to additional top-ups to 15 MFF flagship programmes, which include the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values programme, the only funding stream that directly supports the objectives in the European Commission’s Gender Equality Strategy (2020-2025) and aims to eliminate violence against women.

Closing gender inequality gaps reaps huge economic benefits. Studies demonstrate that improvements to women’s equality can create up to 10.5 million new jobs by 2050, of which 70% would be occupied by women.2 This would lead to an increase in EU GDP per capita by 6.1 to 9.6%, amounting to a total gain of €1.95 and €3.15 trillion.3

Despite these figures, NGEU fails to make any targeted investments to the care sector and focuses predominantly on boosting jobs in male-dominated industries. Women spend 13 hours more than men per week on unpaid care and housework.4 Care responsibilities keep 7.7 million women out of the labour market, compared to just 450,000 men. This leads to an estimated loss of €370 billion per year for Europe; half the total amount of NGEU’s €750 billion. Investing in a Care Deal for Europe would double employment rates in the care sector compared to investing in construction. In countries such as Germany, the total number of jobs created would be 6 times higher for women.6

Furthermore, as EU Member States are in the process of establishing a National Recovery and Resilience Plan, we note that in the European Commission’s guidelines,7 Member States are invited to “outline how […] civil society organisations have been consulted and involved in designing the reforms included in the plan.” We therefore hold you and your government to these obligations to ensure the active and consistent consultation with women’s civil society organisations across EU Member States, including all stages of the European Semester Process, to make sure that the reforms included in the National Recovery and Resilience Plans correspond to women’s experiences on the ground.

Closing inequality gaps between women and men will boost the European project, and set a global example of a united region that is grounded in care for all people and the planet. We trust that you share our concern that EU spending must reflect the EU’s political priorities and that this will be at the core of the ECOFIN meeting.

We include our recommendations in annex and trust that you will give your utmost attention to our demands.

Yours sincerely,
Gwendoline Lefebvre
EWL President

Read our open letter here and recommendations here!

2 EIGE, Economic case for gender equality in the EU, 2017.
3 Ibid.
5 EIGE, Gender Equality Index 2020: Digitalisation and the future of work, p 47.
6 Dr Elisabeth Klatzer & Dr Azzurra Rinaldi, ““#nextGenerationEU” Leaves Women Behind”, July 2020, p 29.

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