EU gender report finds women opting for low-paid sectors

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While increasing numbers of women are working, they remain underrepresented in sectors considered crucial for economic development which are usually better remunerated, notes the Commission’s annual report on equality between women and men.

“Overall, despite their better educational attainment, women’s careers are shorter, slower and less well-paid: it is clear that we need to do more to make full use of the productive potential of the workforce,” said Equal Opportunities Commissioner Vladimír Špidla as he presented the Commission’s fifth annual report on gender equality on 23 January 2008.

The report, which is the first to cover the EU 27, shows that “major challenges remain” in particular to “boost the qualitative aspect of equality”. This is despite a number of measures announced in the Commission’s roadmap for equality between women and men and the European Council’s pact for gender equality, which were implemented in 2007.

The report shows that the female employment rate has been steadily increasing since 2000 and that the unemployment rate for women has fallen to its lowest level for ten years. However, the pay gap, labour market segregation, and work/life balance are ongoing challenges that undermine the qualitative aspect of jobs, found the report. 

Regarding the employment rate of women, significant differences exist at national level across the EU. In Malta, it was only 34.9% compared to more than 70% in Sweden and Denmark.

As for the pay gap, it has remained steady at 15% since 2003. The biggest differences are found in three of the newest EU member states Estonia (25%), Cyprus and Slovakia, followed by Denmark, the UK, Finland and Austria (all 20% or more). The smallest differences were observed in Malta (3%), Belgium (7%) and Slovenia (8%).

The report also highlights that “women’s participation in the labour market is still largely characterised by a high and increasing share of part-time work.” In 2007, the share of women employees working part-time was 31.4% in the EU 27, while the corresponding figure for men was only 7.8%. 

The fact that some member states face high segregation in occupations as well as sectoral segregation is considered a particular problem as well. “In consequence of segregated labour markets, there is an under-representation of women in sectors crucial for economic development and usually well remunerated. For example, only 29% of scientists and engineers in the EU are women.”

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