March 19, 2016 | Saturday
Gender equality is one of the European Union’s fundamental principles and values. It goes back to 1957 when the principle of equal pay for equal work became part of the Treaty of Rome. The European Union’s achievements in fostering gender equality have made improvements in the lives of many European citizens for the better.
Although the inequalities are still present, the EU has marked some progress over the last decades in areas such as equal treatment legislation, gender mainstreaming (integration of the gender perspective into all other policies) and specific measures for the advancement of women.
Gender mainstreaming was endorsed as the official policy approach to gender equality in the European Union and its member states in the Amsterdam Treaty (1997). New member states have been obliged to adopt a gender mainstreaming approach as a condition of joining the EU. However, despite this endorsement, there remains considerable confusion as to what gender mainstreaming is and there has been uneven development in the adoption of gender mainstreaming tools. The Gender mainstreaming tools include gender-disaggregated statistics, gender budgeting and ‘visioning’. More often, gender mainstreaming is used as a means of delivering on or is subsumed under another policy (integration). Despite these weaknesses in practice, the article concludes that gender mainstreaming has significant potential as a transformative strategy.
Some encouragement can be observed in the trends of higher participation of women in the labor market henceforth ensuring a better education and training for these women. However, labor market remains with gender gaps and women are still over-represented in lower paid sectors and under-represented in decision-making positions.
A number of strategic documents on gender equality is produced on annual basis by European Commission and its institutions. The Strategy for equality between women and men represents the European Commission’s work program on gender equality for the period 2010-2015 and incorporates a comprehensive framework to promote gender equality into all its policies for the following thematic priorities:
The “Report on the future of gender equality in EU” published on June 2015 by the European Commission/DG Justice and Consumers (Gender Equality), which resulted as part of a broader stakeholder consultation process by the Forum on the Future of Gender Equality in the European Union, identifies important elements for visions for a gender equal European Union as well as priorities and challenges to actually reach a gender equal European Union.
Regardless of all the strategic documents on strengthening the support for gender equality, the European Commission emphasizes that in order to ensure progress in the field of gender equality there should be a continuous cooperation with the various institutions and stakeholders active in gender equality – EU countries governments, the European Parliament, social partner organisations, civil society, equality bodies, international organisations, and EU agencies.