75% of new jobs in the EU are taken by women, and the majority of graduates in every single EU country are women. But they earn on average 15% less than men, according to the Commission’s 2007 gender-equality report.
In some countries the pay gap is even greater, a separate report on the gender pay gap, published on 7 March 2007, along with the 2007 gender equality report, finds. The worst offender is the UK, where women earn on average 30% less than men, while new member states such as Malta, Hungary and Poland are doing relatively well, with gaps between 10% and 15%.
Still, women’s employment rates raise at a much faster pace than men’s. Throughout the EU, the female employment rate is at 56.3%, having risen from 53.6% in 2000. The Lisbon Strategy targets a 60% female employment by 2010.
With saturation reached in employing men in certain member states, job creation is shifting more and more to women and within the female population to those groups where rates have been lowest in the past. This is demonstrated, for example, by a 30% rise in the employment rate for women aged 55+ between 2000 and 2007.
However, the jobs in which women work are generally (in spite of female workers’ high degree of qualification) lower-quality and worse paid than men’s. Women make up for only around a third of management members in the broadest sense, and researchers believe that the rate would be even lower if the term ‘management’ were defined more strictly. Women are much more likely to work in part-time jobs, and work-life balance problems such as poor availability of child care in certain member states affect women much more than men.
The Commission sends out a number of proposals to the European Council, concerning priorities on gender issues:
- Address labour market gaps;
- advance the reconciliation of work and private life;
- use Structural Funds to address gender equality issues such as promoting childcare and female entrepreneurship, and;
- implement existing legislation. (Four member states – Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy and Spain – have still not implemented the 2002 Gender Equality Directive. The Commission stresses, however, that the issue is broader, including for example the training of judges.)
In addition, the Commission points out a Communication on tackling the gender gap, due for the summer of 2007, and urges member states to mainstream gender issues in employment policies, which means that they should no longer be treated as a separate issue, but enter into all other policy definitions.