While gender equality and equal opportunities between men and women are acknowledged in the EU treaties, EU employment policy and austerity measures have allowed women’s inequality to persist.
EU austerity has resulted in cuts in public spending that are not gender neutral. The majority of public sector workers are women, and they have been at the receiving end of pay freezes, two-tier pay structures and reduced entitlements. Women are also more dependent on public services and welfare benefits. In Ireland, it was lone parents and young mothers who bore the brunt of cuts imposed by the Troika.
The EU gender pay gap has remained rigid. The difference in the average gross hourly wage between men and women across the EU is 16.2%. The overall earnings gap widens to 39.6% when lower hourly earnings, fewer hours in paid jobs and lower employment rates for women are taken into account.
One reason for the persistence of gender pay inequality is that the European Employment Strategy has prioritised the activation of women into the workforce without official support for the care and reproductive work mostly carried out by women. While more and more women in Ireland and across the EU are entering the workforce, they are forced to face the cost of childcare themselves. The EU Commission’s Barcelona Objectives on Childcare advocates ‘affordable high quality childcare’ but avoids saying it needs to be publicly funded. A People Before Profit MEP would:
- Highlight how EU austerity policies have fallen disproportionately on women and entrenched the gender pay gap. We support women workers fighting back against low pay.
- Call for a reversal of the cuts on child benefits and lone parent allowances made in the austerity years at the behest of the Troika.
- Demand that 1% of Ireland’s GDP be allocated to publicly-funded childcare in defiance of the EU fiscal budgetary rules.