Last 3rd December, the EPSCO Council adopted conclusions and guidelines aimed at closing the care gap, so as to help narrow the gender pay gap with the aim of achieving more equal labour market participation between women and men. These Council Conclusions are one of the key priorities of the Trio Presidency of Germany, Portugal and Slovenia, and proposed by the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union.
Franziska Giffey, German Minister for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, declared shortly after the EPSCO Council: “Equal distribution of unpaid care work and paid employment between women and men is key to gender equality – and especially important as we are grappling with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. This week, the Council unanimously adopted the Council Conclusions “Tackling the gender pay gap: valuation and distribution of paid work and unpaid care work”. This is an important sign: Europe moves jointly towards a gender equal future. I am convinced that we can only achieve gender equality if we all work together: women and men.”
The German Presidency invited the European Institute of Gender Equality (EIGE) to provide a report which emphasises with robust data and findings why care is key to tackle the roots of gender inequalities. EIGE’s report underlines the links between the uneven share of unpaid care responsibilities and the gender inequalities in the access to job opportunities. Should the gender care gap want to be really addressed, the report highlights the importance of two aspects: an equal sharing of care tasks between women and men and the access of quality and affordable care services. Indeed, the report shows, on the one hand, that women still take up a disproportionate share of additional household and caring tasks, and on the other that early childhood education and care (ECEC) services lead to higher returns for women, compared to men. The EIGE report, which was approved before the EPSCO Council, can be consulted here.
The Council recalls in its conclusions the Commission’s EU Action Plan 2017-2019 on tackling the gender pay gap, the Commission’s Gender Equality Strategy 2020-25, the United Nation’s Beijing Platform for Action and the EU Directive on Work-Life Balance.
Rome was not built in a day. Changes take time and patience and do not come out of nowhere. Legislation (either by hard and soft Law) is important to change, to bring and to reinforce social rights. Targeted actions and legislation to address the several gender gaps are therefore needed.
The recommendations that the Council advances are much in line with COFACE Families Europe’s long-term demands, through comprehensive policies based on a mix of RESOURCES, SERVICES and TIME to support families and give them real options for Work-Life Balance:
- Measures to boost the take-up of parental leaves by both women and men;
- Measures to decrease the gender care gap: improving investment in services to families as a complementary measure (ECEC and LTC), employment rights and flexible working arrangements;
- Measures to recognise the value of unpaid care work;
- Improving the affordability, accessibility and quality of care, including the many dimensions to quality (trained staff, recognition of the status of care-related occupations, staff/child ratio, etc.);
- Tackling gender stereotypes in early childhood, pre-school, primary and secondary education;
- Monitoring and reporting “the gender care gap” through indicators and research of EU agencies such as EIGE and Eurofound.
Finally, the Council demands the Commission to, among all, to follow up the measures established in the EU Action Plan 2017-2019 on Tacking the gender pay gap and, if relevant, introduce binding measures, as well as following a more gender mainstreaming approach in all key aspects of the European Semester.
The Council conclusions can be found here (in English).