EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

International Women's Day 2008

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International Women's Day 2008 logo On the occasion of International Women's Day, celebrated on Saturday 8 March 2008, the Foundation has put together a summary of some of its recent work on women and equality issues.

Foundation Findings: Work–life balance – Solving the dilemma
This issue of Foundation Findings deals with work-life balance in Europe. The EU needs to increase employment rates to ensure continued economic growth and promote social inclusion. To do this, it needs to make it easier for individuals to combine their work and family commitments to facilitate people – women in particular – to enter the labour market.

European Working Conditions Survey Seminar - Quality of work and employment in Europe: Women or men, does it matter?
Casting the spotlight on the gender dimension in the workplace inevitably leads to an exploration of the different gendered elements of the experience of work in Europe. With this aim in mind, this paper will draw from the findings of the report Gender and working conditions in the European Union (Burchell et al, 2007). In turn, this report is based on secondary analysis of the data from the Foundation’s fourth European Working Conditions Survey, as well as on recently published research from the Eurofound’s observatories – the European Working Conditions Observatory (EWCO) and the European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO).

Foundation Focus - Issue 4: Family matters
This issue of Foundation Focus looks at families in the light of recent policy developments at EU and national level and based on Foundation research findings in this area.

Working conditions in the European Union: the gender perspective
This report examines the extent of occupational segregation by gender and how it impacts on the quality of women’s and men’s working lives. The analysis is based on findings from the fourth European Working Conditions Survey carried out across 31 countries, including the 27 EU Member States. The report highlights differences between men and women in key aspects of job quality, such as working hours, job satisfaction, work–life compatibility and work-related health outcomes.

Women and violence at work
This background paper has been drafted to coincide with the hearing of the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (November 21st 2007, Brussels) on Women and Violence at work in the European Union. The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions has a track record of research on workplace bullying, violence and discrimination going back to the 1990s. These negative aspects of the work experience have in particular been charted in successive waves of the European Working Conditions Survey [EWCS] from 1990/1-2005.

Gender and career development
This EIRO comparative study examines the issue of gender and career development and explores the continuing barriers to achieving equality of opportunity in this area. Looking at the current European Union countries (with the exception of Sweden) and Norway, the study explores the extent to which career patterns are changing in response to the restructuring of work and organisations and how this impacts on women’s career experiences. It also examines the attitudes of the social partners regarding gender and career development.

Foundation Focus - Issue 3: Equal opportunities – the catch-up game
This issue of Foundation Focus places the spotlight on equal opportunities, viewed in the light of recent policy developments at EU and national level and based on Foundation research findings in this area.

Innovative gender equality measures in the transport industry
This report aims to investigate the development and implementation of innovative measures designed to foster gender equality in the transport sector. To this end, the report outlines and analyses eight innovative measures that have been taken by national trade unions or other social partner groups in seven countries: Croatia, France, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom (UK). The common characteristic uniting all of these measures is their central objective of improving gender equality at the workplace in a number of transport subsectors.

Fourth European Working Conditions Survey
One important finding is that the difference between the amount of unpaid work that is carried out by European men and women is huge. It exists throughout all age groups but it is particularly important for those aged 30 to 45, the years in which family responsibilities are most pressing. According to Foundation estimates, women workers in this age group spend on average 20 to 25 more hours per week on care or housework duties than their male colleagues. This has an impact on the number of paid working hours of men and women: whereas middle-aged men tend to work slightly longer hours than younger or older generations, women work fewer paid hours on average during the ‘family-intensive’ years.

The gender pay gap
Although collective agreements and minimum wage laws are in principle gender-neutral, women still end up earning less than men. This paper briefly explores some different facets of the ‘gender pay gap’ issue, based on data collected from two of the Foundation’s projects: the European Industrial Relations Observatory (EIRO) report on pay developments in 2005, and the fourth European Working Conditions Survey, published in February 2007.

Parental leave in European companies
Parental leave constitutes a major policy component for promoting work–life balance for employees with caring responsibilities. For women in particular, the length of leave taken, whether it is taken on a full-time or part-time basis, and whether or not employment is resumed at the end of the leave period, will depend on the overall work–family reconciliation package they have access to. This includes the availability and cost of childcare services as well as the working time requirements expected of mothers at their workplace, either with employers demanding their return to work on a full-time basis or providing for alternative opportunities such as reduced or flexible working hours.

Working time and work-life balance in European companies
According to the results, the most frequently mentioned category of employees who work part time are mothers. On average, about two thirds (66%) of the establishments that have any form of part-time work state that their part-time employees include mothers with pre-school or school children. In addition, just over half (52%) of the establishments employ women without children or with grown-up children among their part-time workforce. Evidently, the need to care for children is still one of the most immediate and common reasons for working part time.

Employment developments in childcare services for school-age children
The European Council and Commission recognise the importance of ensuring suitable childcare services as an essential step towards achieving gender equality and increasing female labour market participation. Although the motivation for childcare policy development has been led by demands to strengthen the economy by increasing women’s labour market participation, quality of life issues significantly impact on women’s labour market participation and are central to offsetting the current declining birth rates and ageing population across Europe. The quality of childcare provision does not impact solely on the children attending care facilities, but also affects their parents and communities.