European Commission Releases Annual Report on Equality between Men and Women
Tuesday, April 4, 2006 2:05 PM

Brussels 24-02-2006. Women in the EU earn 15% less than men and progress has been slow in closing gender gaps with men, according to a new European Commission's report. The 'Report on equality between women and men 2006' calls on EU countries to provide better ways to help women deal with home and work pressures. It will be submitted to the European leaders at the Spring European Council on 23/4 March.

The report found that difficulty in managing a work/life balance means that many women leave the labour market. Their employment rate, at 55.7%, is 15% lower than men's. Women who do work are often confined to a limited number of sectors - more than 40% work in education, health or public administration, compared to less than 20% of men. Part time work accounts for over 32% of women's jobs, but just over 7% for men. Women earn 15% less than men partly because they are concentrated in lower paid professions. And women still fill relatively few top posts. On the positive side, the report found more than 75% of new jobs created in the EU in the last five years have been filled by women.

Vladimir Spidla, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, said more needs to be done to address gender inequality. 'It's not acceptable that half of the EU's population still gets a worse deal than the other half. We need commitments at the highest levels to close the gender gap. This is not just an equality issue, but is fundamental if we are to reach the targets set out in the Lisbon strategy, which is designed to boost Europe's economy.'

Work-life balance tensions, combined with stereotypes and gender-biased pay and evaluation systems continue to hold women back in the job market. Women account for just 32% of managers. Only 10% of members of the boards and 3% of CEOs of larger EU enterprises are women.

The lack of a good work/life balance has not only adversely affected women's position in the labour market, but has contributed to lower fertility rates - which also impacts on the EU's economy. The report invites EU Member States to help both men and women to balance work and private life, such as through more and better childcare, innovative and adaptable working arrangements or better equality policies. It also urges them to reduce employment and pay differences between men and women and to make full use of EU Structural Funds in addressing gender issues.

The EU made advances in promoting gender equality in 2005 with its proposal for new European Institute for Gender Equality last year, which will raise awareness of gender issues while more EU gender equality legislation also came into force last year leading to the creation of new national gender equality bodies. The European Commission will present on March 3 a 'Roadmap for equality between men and women' Communication in the coming days, which will set out concrete actions designed to help bridge the gender gap. The launch of the roadmap will lead up to this year's International women's day on March 8.

Compiled from: "Report on Equality between Men and Women 2006, " European Commission, Press Release, 24 February 2006. See the full report.