FEPS Fresh Thinking

The Forgotten

Anniversaries are meaningless unless they offer new perspectives. For Clara Zetkin, the right to work was essential for the recognition of women in society because it is only with a stable job that anyone can gain independence. That was over a century ago and if the fighting initiated by this progressive activist has changed the 20th century, gender equality remains a question of power and domination by men – as recalled by former Commissioner Vladimir Spidla at the FEPS seminar last Monday. Two examples illustrate this situation: two figures that can’t be ignored, because they were previously taken for granted. Compared to men, women spend twice as much time caring for children, 3 times as much running the household. In this light, it is difficult for women to be competitive in the labour market. Therefore, we should talk once and for all about inequality and work to find solutions.

Is the affirmative action initiated in Norway in the Boards of Administrators one such example? We can discuss it because, a priori, if a woman wants to join a Board of Directors this should be possible today. Statistically, however, this does not hold up but there are more serious issues even than this. How many women are on the other side of the labour market in positions of precarious employment? Far too many! Such is the extent that this autumn the European Parliament moved a resolution, reminding us that women’s participation in the labour market is an indicator for their role in the household and they tend to accept jobs that allow them to combine paid work and unpaid work.

Let’s bring an end to this feminine modesty and encourage women to revolt. This could be the message of March 8, 2011. If solidarity still has currency a sense in our society, it is time to redress the balance by grappling with the female unemployment rate. In a context of individualisation and flexibility, nothing seems to indicate like the EU2020 strategy that real specific measures are not being provided for women when the goal in terms of employment rates (75 %) is already achieved in men. Only 63% of women in Europe work, as opposed to 76% of men.

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