Bursting the Bubble

Women’s better access to various forms of employment is both opportunity and stimulus for economic growth

4 July 2014 | by

A stronger focus on supporting women in accessing the labour market can contribute significantly to the Europe 2020 agenda according to a new report by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE). At the same time, the Institute warns against mixing ‘bogus’ self‐employment with real full‐time jobs.

On 18-19 June, the Institute invited journalists and communications experts from many of the EU Member States to Athens in order to present its latest research in the frame of the Greek Presidency on the theme of  ‘Good practices in the area of women’s entrepreneurship’.

Based on the findings, the new report indicates the need to streamline policies and initiatives so that women have the same access to the labour market as men. The study reveals that women’s full‐time employment rate amounted to only 50 % in the EU‐28 in 2012 (compared with 59 % for the headcount employment rate), well below the Europe 2020 target of 75 %. For men, the full‐time employment rate is 72 %.

Gender equality helps economic growth

Entrepreneurship can offer women and men a specific means of employment which has the advantage of facilitating the reconciliation of family responsibilities with economic engagement. Through this it can also contribute to a more gender‐equal society, especially if combined with a more equitable share of caring and household work. This phenomenon is supported by the data from the Gender Equality Index, which show a clear correlation between a high level of gender equality and economic development in the EU Member States.

Movement approach seems to pay off

Complementary to the report, a collection of good practices from the EU 28 shows that gender mainstreaming strategies and gender equality policies related to women’s entrepreneurship are more likely to have an impact when they adopt a ‘movement approach’. This ‘movement approach’ involves not only awareness‐raising campaigns, role model promotion, funding programmes etc. but also putting in place regulations, provisions and laws specifically addressing gender inequalities. At the same time, entrepreneurial mindset should be introduced in the educational system at an early age as well. Gender mainstreaming strategies need to address all the relevant features of the issue. They range from development of competences and skills, cultural and political awareness, mutual learning, capacity building and networking, involvement of different actors and stakeholders, business support and social and political evidence of the benefits of gender equality.

‘Bogus’ self‐employment

The report from EIGE also reveals certain traps in the promotion of self-employment about which statistics are silent. Despite the fact that part‐time work and self‐employment are undeniably important gateways to ensure gender equality, they may pose dangers to women’s economic independence. For example, in the EU‐28 the number of part‐time workers who risk ending up in poverty is almost double compared to those working full time. It creates a serious challenge since women are nearly four times more likely to work on a part‐time basis (mainly due to family responsibilities) than men. We cannot ignore the fact that some of these self‐employment jobs are ways of avoiding real job contracts and the provision of decent working conditions. When talking about self‐employment and creating jobs this problem should be taken into account.

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