New EU Action Plan on Gender Equality

Striving for a gender equal world

News | 25 November 2020
A high-level event on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women marked the launch of the EU's new Action Plan on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment 2021–2025 (GAP III).

The Plan aims to promote gender equality and women's empowerment through all external action of the European Union. Lieve Verboven, Director of the ILO-Brussels Office, participated in a panel discussion. She discussed the persistent global gender gap in labour with regard to women’s employment rates, wages and the quality of employment.

Women are still 26 percentage points less likely to be employed than men, and over the past 27 years, the gender employment gap has shrunk by less than 2 percentage points.

740 million women work in the informal economy. They are paid less and have limited access to social protection. They often work in unsafe conditions and are more likely to be exposed to harassment at work.

On top of this, the health and socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis are disproportionately affecting women’s employment.

Several factors hinder women’s labour market opportunities. First and foremost, the fact that the vast majority of unpaid care work is carried out by women. Across the world, 21.7% of working age women perform unpaid care work on a full-time basis, compared to only 1.5% of men.

Motherhood further reduces women’s labour market opportunities. Mothers are less likely to be hired, they suffer a wage penalty that compounds across their working lives, while fathers tend to enjoy a wage premium. Only 25% of managers with young children are women.

Violence and harassment in the world of work has a significant gender dimension, and when it occurs, it has a detrimental impact on women’s participation in employment and on the quality of work.

In concluding, the Director summarized the main elements of a transformative approach to the redistribution of unpaid care and household work.

“Public investment in care infrastructure and services for children, older persons, people with disabilities, etc. has to be ensured”, she said. “We also need social protection policies that promote the accessibility of care services for low-income families.”

We need to challenge gender stereotypes with regard to care and involve men. We also need more women in high-level and decision-making positions, including women from under-represented groups.

Unpaid care and household work need to be measured and more visible. “Finally, it is important to improve working conditions for all care workers,” the Director said.