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The eighth report on equality between men and women describes developments towards gender equality in the European Union in 2010. It noted the European Commission’s commitment to advance equality as set out in the Women’s Charter, which was adopted on March 5 2010, and the Strategy for Equality between Women and Men 2010-2015, which was adopted on September 21. Through these documents, the EU and the Commission re-iterate their commitment to gender equality in all their policies.

The report notes that previous gender equality policies have significantly contributed to economic growth and social welfare. However, while there is a general trend towards more equality in society and on the labour market, progress in eliminating gender inequalities remains slow. Reaching the employment targets for men and women as set out in the Europe 2020 Strategy will be a challenge due to the recent economic difficulties; however, without increased measures to improve gender equality in society that challenge is amplified.

Focus on employment rates

In 2010, the revised Parental Leave Directive (2010/18/EU) increased the leave entitlement of each working parent from three months to four months, with one month non-transferable between the parents. The Directive (2010/41/EU) on the equal treatment between men and women engaged in an activity in a self-employed capacity was the first provision at EU level that provided for a maternity allowance for self-employed workers and their spouses or life partners.

The former measure may help to address the difference between female and male employment rates (12.9 percentage points) and the percentage of women who work part-time (31 percent compared to 8.1 percent of men), while the latter measure may help to increase the number of women business leaders in private companies. Currently, only one-third of business leaders in private companies are women.

The report noted that the major challenge for women’s full engagement in work was that of reconciling the commitments of work, family and private life as evidenced by the labour market participation rate of women who are parents as being 11.5 percentage points lower than that of women without children. The labour market participation rate of men who are parents is 8.5 percentage points higher than that of men without children.

The report stated that high-quality, affordable and accessible childcare options are a vital step in offering parents a genuine choice to work. It also exemplified the Swedish legislative measure of offering bonuses to parents when men and women shared parental leave between them.

Source: Eurostat and the European Commission’s database on women and men in decision making.

NB: Leaders of business covers ISCO (International standard classification of occupations) categories 121 (Directors and chief executives) and 13 (Managers of small enterprises)