EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality VĚRA JOUROVÁ, who was in Malta earlier this week, speaks to
With the EU struggling through persistent economic stagnation, does this make putting gender equality legislation on the EU’s agenda more difficult due to a lack of prioritisation on the issue?
On the contrary, gender equality and economic development go hand in hand. Bringing and keeping more women in the labour market and in sustainable full-time jobs has the potential to significantly raise the EU’s growth potential.
A number of studies show that women in management and holding board level positions bring new and different ideas to their work environments. They are more likely to collaborate across teams and organisations which results in more holistic decisions. Also 60 per cent of university graduates in the EU are women. Europe needs to use that talent on the labour market.
In its annual recommendations to member states on economic policymaking, the Commission asks a number of them to create the necessary conditions to enhance women’s labour market participation. This includes Malta, where the employment rate of women – at 53.6 per cent – is among the lowest in the EU.
On the subject of equal pay, studies have shown that when comparing wages of men and women of the same job description, taking into consideration hours worked and the amount of time taken away from the job, the pay gap reduces significantly. Academics have called this the cost of having children, because women tend to work fewer hours, or take a one-year break, once they do. Do you believe that a policy onus should be created on measures such as free child care across the EU in order to assist women in spending as little time away from work as possible, should they choose to?
Work-life balance policies can help to address the barriers to women’s participation in the labour market. The Commission sees it as a favourable development that EU countries are introducing measures such as childcare for children under the age of three and paid paternity leave for both men and women.
At EU level, I am currently working on a proposal for next year with a series of measures on work-life balance. The aim is not a ‘one-size fits all’ approach, but a policy toolkit that gives families more choice and better options on how to reconcile work and family life. We consulted social partners and will take their comments on board. I was happy to discuss this file with Ms Dalli. This proposal will be launched under the Maltese Presidency and I look forward to working on these issues with the Maltese government.
Malta was ranked as the worst country out of all of Europe for gender equality in a report by the World Economic Forum. What concrete steps can this country’s government take to begin tackling this damning report?
The employment rate of women in Malta is among the lowest in the EU at 53.6 per cent against 81.4 per cent for men. It shows that it still is difficult for women to be mothers and have a professional career at the same time.
I therefore welcome the reforms introduced by the Maltese government in 2014 to facilitate the participation of women in the labour market by including a free childcare scheme, the tapering-off of benefits when taking up a job and in-work benefits. Minister Dalli wants to change the discourse around pregnancy, which is still sometimes perceived as a disease. She highlights the impact on Malta of the provision of free nursery care from the age of three months which has increased female participation in the workforce by 6 per cent.
I support the Maltese government on this path.
Malta fared particularly poorly with regard to political empowerment. Females in power notoriously face extremely harsh criticism, especially via online platforms and social media. Could this be one of the biggest deterrents and how can policy-makers
YouTube and Twitter last May and postings with illicit content are now usually banned or deleted within less than 24 hours. It is my hope that we can limit the number of hate speech postings this way, including postings against female politicians so that they can communicate about their work online with full confidence.