The Romanian Presidency of the EU Council discussed, on the first day of the informal meeting of the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council (EPSCO), topics focused on stimulating women’s participation in the labour market, encouraging and supporting them in atypical forms of work, reducing the pay gap between women and men, and also the issues regarding women and girls with disabilities on the labour market.
In the first part of the meeting, the debates, attended also by Marianne Thyssen, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Competencies and Labour Mobility, and Heinz Koller, Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia of the International Labour Organization, were headed by the Romanian Labour and Social Justice Minister, Marius Budăi, and focused on stimulating women’s participation in the labour market, by encouraging and supporting them in atypical forms of work.
At the opening, the Romanian Labour Minister stated that in order to improve women’s access to the labour market, a wide range of measures are needed to eliminate gender stereotypes and that it is essential to ensure a normative framework through which women benefit from real economic independence.
At European Union level, about 27.5% of women older than 16 years report a limitation of activity, compared with 23.0% of men in the same age group. EU law offers protection against discrimination on the grounds of sex in employment and prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability.
The gender gap in employment is a proof of the wasted potential. European women and girls have a higher level of education than men, but are under-represented, for example, in leading positions and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).
“Although there are notable differences between Member States, the average gender pay gap is 11.6% in the EU as a whole and 18.2% when calculated in full-time equivalents,” said Labour Minister, Marius Budăi.
The Romanian official stressed that action is needed to facilitate the work-life balance and measures to mitigate the structural disadvantages women face in the labour market, especially high unemployment, low labour market participation, such as and career breaks due to domestic responsibilities.
„With an overall employment gap of 11.5 percentage points lower than men’s and a gender pay gap of 16%, equality between women and men is still a challenge in the EU. This is bad for our society as a whole: the economic loss because of gender employment gap is estimated at EUR 370 billion per year. The Commission has proposed concrete legislative measures to improve this situation. The recently adopted Work life balance directive will contribute to increase women’s participation to the labour market. By rebalancing the caring responsabilities between women and men, women and men will have a real choice to combine work and family life. Beyond legislation, we continue to monitor the social and employment situation of women through the European Semester. Last but not least, through the ESF, we invested EUR 2.2 bil in gender equality since 2014. To conclude, gender equality should remain at the core of the debate on the Future of Europe”, stated European Commissioner Marianne Thyssen.
Labour Minister Marius Budai also said that automation and digitization, accelerated by the rapid growth of artificial intelligence, are an important source of economic growth and job creation but also lead to an increase in the need for qualification of employees in certain key sectors and a wide range of social challenges.
The Romanian official explained that to meet these challenges, investment in skills development is needed to support employment, full participation of women and men in the labour market, and adaptation to technological change and the economy.
The discussions of the second part of the meeting, at which Virginija Langbakk, director of the European Institute for Equal Opportunities and Aurelia-Gratiela Drăghici, chairman of the National Agency for Equal Opportunities (ANES) took part, were headed by the Minister Romanian Labour and Social Justice, Marius Budai, and addressed the issue of women and girls with disabilities on the labour market and reducing the pay gap between women and men.
In his intervention in this session, Marius Budai said Eurofound data showed that in 2016, the employment rate for women with disabilities was 45.9%, lower than that of men in the same category: 50.6%.
For women with disabilities, low rates of access to education and training programs, and lack of opportunities for access to the labour market, lead to a lack of professional skills and qualifications.
It is therefore necessary to transpose the global policy into the national context by strengthening public policies for women with disabilities so that we can significantly reduce the inequalities faced by women with disabilities in all areas of public and private life.
At the same time, the Labour Minister said that reducing the pay gap between women and men remains a political priority at EU and national level, as figures indicate that on average EU women’s gross hourly wage is 16% (2017) lower than men, and the gap narrowed to a small extent from 2010 when it was 17.1%.
At the end of the debate, it was concluded that, in order to improve women’s access to the labour market, governments, companies and social partners need to work together to ensure secure jobs, decent working conditions and flexible working environments for women and men.
At the end of the Informal EPSCO Council’s first day, the Minister of Labour and Social Justice chaired the debate on” Digitization and new forms of employment – their impact on the future labour market and social protection systems”, within the High Level Reflection Group on the Future of Employment and Social Policies.
Marius Budăi mentioned on this occasion that digitization represents an important source of economic growth and job creation, which has facilitated the creation, with fewer resources, of new, better products and services, and reduced physical exigencies and exposure to hazardous activities at the workplace.
The High Level Reflection Group on the Future of Employment and Social Policies was initiated by the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union to reflect on the future of employment and social policies in EU.