He­lena Grech

EU Com­mis­sioner for Jus­tice, Con­sumers and Gen­der Equal­ity VĚRA JOUROVÁ, who was in Malta ear­lier this week, speaks to

Malta Independent - - NEWS -

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.

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