What should be done then in order to promote change? Below some of the aspects that have been discussed above are summarised and translated into seven recommendations.
1. Take into account existing gender gaps and inequalities and perform impact assessments in all policies and initiatives
In all measures to promote change towards better functioning labour markets, a more skilled workforce, and better job quality and working conditions, and in efforts to create stronger policies to promote job creation and demand for labour, there is a need to take into account:
- The prevailing gender segregation of the labour market;
- Flexicurity and its different implications for women and men, and especially the question of whether initiatives are creating flexibility for women and security for men;
- The correlation of the gender pay gap and pension gap with precarious jobs;
- Family responsibilities, paid and un-paid work, and working conditions;
- The gender differences in women’s and men’s participation in training activities;
- Economic independence/autonomy and job quality;
- Gender inequality in the labour market and the impact of other grounds of discrimination like ethnicity, age, disability and sexual orientation.
In reviewing these issues it is necessary to bear in mind how many of today’s problems have gendered roots. The discussion must also include the larger objective to create a situation of equal and just participation for women and men in the labour market, work that enables economic independence, and how to counter the feminisation of poverty and the rise of precarious jobs. A gender impact analysis and gender disaggregated data must be required in all initiatives developed within the broad area covered by the Agenda. Take into account intersectional aspects in the analysis (see Gender CoP Standard: Short studies and fact sheets on gender aspects in thematic issues/gender gaps and ESF target groups from a gender perspective).
2. Pay special attention to gendered aspects of crisis-related policies
The current crisis must be taken into account, and it is necessary to make a holistic analysis that considers the interaction between the recession’s impact on men’s and women’s labour market patterns and the gendered impact of the policy responses adopted.
The expert analysis by EGGE (Villa and Smith 2009) recommends considering gender issues in crisis-related policies, including the following points:
- Activities to keep people in work need to recognise the impact of gender segregation of sectors and occupations on the allocation and use of public funds to support threatened jobs; women are underrepresented among beneficiaries and there is a risk of reinforcing lines of segmentation between women and men.
- Flexicurity policies need to be gender mainstreamed to avoid reinforcing the disadvantaged status of some groups and further segmenting the labour market along gender lines.
- Policies towards people with international origin need to recognise that non-nationals – both women and men – have been disproportionately impacted upon by the crisis.
- Polices directed to low-wage earners can help address overall gender inequalities since women are overrepresented among the low paid.
- Activation policies for the unemployed risk focusing on those who have recently lost jobs at the expense of considering the wider non-employed working-age population and taking a holistic view of potential labour supply. Similarly, policies to activate people through education and training are also affected by, and risk reinforcing, the gender segregation of employment opportunities.
3. Not just a job – but a decent job!
The future discussion must be centred on how to create decent working conditions including putting an end to sexual harassment in the workplace and gender-based discrimination. Working life needs to be better attuned to individual situations and responsibilities, and it is important to discuss the mechanisms that can support such a development, such as the availability of child care facilities. Employment growth cannot be termed “inclusive” if it means that women will be trapped in low-paid dead-end jobs with bad working conditions.
4. Changing processes that create inequality instead of “equipping” marginalised groups
It is evident that an imbalance remains in many Member States, where the main object of change is the individuals within various target groups rather than discriminatory structures and practices in workplaces and labour market and educational systems. “Instrumental strategies still privilege a supply-side approach – addressing ‘women’s capacities to compete in the labour market’ – much more than trying to affect the socio-cultural environment that both shape the behaviour of critical decision-makers and determine the range of opportunities for women.” (EC Evaluation p. 9) The mechanisms that make the labour market inclusive only for those who fit within certain (male) norms must be highlighted and initiatives to deal with them must become more common.
5. A gender problem, not a “women’s problem”
It is furthermore central to understand how the problems underlying existing gender gaps call for an analysis of the complexity and interdependence of the issues encountered. It is not only a “women’s problem”. There are other layers of social categorisation, such as age, ethnicity etc., that, once they are brought into the analysis, give a fuller picture. The different “systems” and country based variations across the EU are also important to bear in mind. Some initiatives that target only women or frame the analysing and solving of problems as a task for women should be examined in order to understand gender relations. For example, in policies to reconcile work and family life, part-time work and the need for flexible solutions only for mothers can instead be analysed in terms of the need for equal sharing of unpaid work, care for children and reconciliation measures for both parents. Measures to include and address men in gender equality initiatives must be strengthened.
6. A life course perspective with appropriate monitoring systems
As the variability of employment contracts and the number of job-to-job transitions increase, the need for better monitoring of job transitions for women in terms of both individual careers over the life course and job quality becomes obvious. The information infrastructure to do this, however, is underdeveloped at national and EU levels, which gives reason to recommend a renewed initiative of the European Commission to improve this infrastructure as a prerequisite to successfully managing job-to-job transitions (New skills and jobs in Europe: Pathways towards full employment, EC, DG Research 2012, p.20f). Gender impact assessments need to take on board a whole-life perspective in order to understand long-term effects both for individuals and the labour market systems in general (see German gender equality report from a life course perspective).
7. Create the necessary conditions for effective gender mainstreaming
The lack of understanding of gender problems, its causes and its consequences, and also the lack of know-how about how to address them clearly indicate the need to continue the work with the dual gender-equality approach, especially with gender mainstreaming in many areas. Gender expertise is an essential prerequisite and part of the infrastructure for such work. In the ESF permanent gender mainstreaming support structures (e.g. the German Agency for Gender Equality in the ESF) are good instruments to ensure sustainable and coherent implementation. A structured approach such as the one developed in the GenderCoP Gender Mainstreaming Standard can further strengthen the day-to-day work.