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Report on equality for men and women, 2005

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Report on equality for men and women, 2005

The European Commission presents its second annual report for the spring European Council on developments in the situation with regard to men and women in terms of education, employment and social life. It takes stock of the progress made and the political challenges and aims involved in promoting equality for men and women and focuses on the particular situation of immigrant men and women.


Report from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 14 February 2005, "Report on equality for men and women, 2005" [COM(2005) 44 - Not published in the Official Journal].



Community legislation

The Directive on equal treatment for men and women in access to goods and services and the provision of goods and services in December 2004 extended the acquis on equal treatment for men and women beyond the field of employment for the first time.

Moreover, in April 2004, the Commission adopted a proposal recasting the existing five directives in order to clarify the principle of equal treatment for men and women in employment.

Finally, the Directive on the residence permit issued to third-country nationals who are victims of trafficking in human beings was adopted in April 2004.

Gender gaps

On the whole, gender gaps have been reduced, but the pay gap remains virtually unchanged.

In terms of employment, the gap between men and women shrank by 0.5 points between 2002 and 2003 to 15.8%. The employment rate for women was 55.1% in 2003.

As regards unemployment, the gap between men and women remained stable, as the unemployment rate was 10% for women compared with 8.3% for men in 2004.

The average proportion of part-time jobs was 30.4% for women and only 6.6% for men in 2004. This gap tends to increase each year.

Reconciling work and family life remains a major challenge. For women with small children, the employment rate is still 13.6 points below that for women without children, whilst the rate of employment for men with small children is 10 points higher than for men without children. These figures can be accounted for by limited access to child-care structures and by sexist family stereotypes with women taking on most of the work involved in the household and bringing up the children.

The pay gap between men and women hardly seems to have been reduced at all, remaining stable in the European Union at approximately 15% in 2004.

Elderly women are more likely to suffer poverty than men. Moreover, single parents tend to be prone to multiple disadvantages and are particularly exposed to social exclusion.

In pension schemes, which differ greatly from one country to another, the entitlements of women are lower than men because of their limited participation in the labour market (part-time, long breaks for bringing up children). However, some countries are changing their systems, giving pension rights for periods spent bringing up children or caring for a dependent or disabled person.

Immigrant men and women

The rate of employment amongst nationals from third countries is, on average, much lower than for European Union nationals, with the difference being even more marked for women than men. Furthermore, the difference between the employment rates for highly qualified European women and immigrant women with the same qualifications is on the rise.

The pay gap between immigrant women and European women is 10% whilst it is only 4% for men.


In order to cope with the challenges of population ageing, Europe must encourage people to enter the labour market, create policies to continue to promote employment of women in all age groups and make full use of the potential for women's employment amongst immigrants. The challenge also lies in reducing the pay gap between men and women and making it easier to reconcile work and family life for both men and women.

Strengthening the position of women in the labour market

The Member States must make an effort to reduce the gap between the employment rates for men and women, in particular in the higher age groups. They must address the fact that pay gaps show no signs of diminishing and ensure that there is no gender segregation in the labour market (by occupation and sector). They must reform their social protection systems and eliminate financial or other factors that are a disincentive to women's employment.

Improving child care and dependant care services

Provision of services to care for children or dependants which are affordable, accessible and of high quality must be improved by, inter alia, financial contributions from the Structural Funds, so that women can enter the labour market and stay there throughout their lives (reconciling private life and work).

Targeting men to achieve equality for men and women

The social partners in the Member States must promote work organisation systems that help to reconcile work and private life and systems for adequate parental leave which is shared by the two parents. They must also raise awareness amongst men to encourage them to share responsibilities for child care.

Gender mainstreaming in immigration and integration policies

Gender must be taken into account in integration policies to fully utilise the potential of immigrant women in the labour market. The Member States must take better account of cultural practice and expectations with regard to the role of women in the host country and country of origin, and combat the twofold discrimination - sexist and racist - they are faced with.

Evaluating progress on equality for men and women

The Member States, the Commission and the Council of Ministers must step up their continued efforts to prepare comparable statistics and indicators that are broken down by sex in policy areas where these data are not available.

The Commission's proposal of March 2005 for setting up a European institute for equality for men and women should enable these data to be collected more easily and extend the scope for evaluation.

Furthermore, the tenth anniversary of the Beijing Action Platform in 2005 is an opportunity for the European Union to confirm the commitments made at the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 and to present the progress made on gender equality since 1995.

Last updated: 17.08.2005