End of Year Update on EU Gender Policies – 2017

Gender Equality  blue and pink paper in a corkboard ©CanStockPhoto pedrosala

(20 December 2017) This is a short update on existing and planned policies and actions on gender equality by the European Commission and the Council of Ministers.

On Work-Life Balance (WLB) – the legislative part

The Employment and Social Affairs Council (EPSCO) and its working party on WLB on met in November for a first discussion on the issue. Non-transferability of rights of parental leave between father and mother, as set forth in the new directive proposal on WLB by the European Commission – as well as the issue of payment of parental and paternity leaves, were central to the discussions; there is no agreement in sight on these two issues. Particularly the Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German and Polish colleagues expressed their disagreement.  But the rest of the Member States were not exactly jubilant about the proposals as well.

Meanwhile the European Parliament whose voice is crucial in the co-legislative procedure decided that its Employment and Social Affairs Committee should be responsible for drafting the EP’s opinion, in collaboration with the EP’s Women’s Committee.  Both committees have now appointed their respective rapporteurs:

  • David CASA, from the European People’s Party (EPP) – Employment Committee
  • Agnieszka KOZLOWSKA, EPP – Women’s Rights Committee

First discussions will take place in February and a final report is expected in March, which then should go for a vote in the plenary of the European Parliament in September.

Two other opinions were also recently adopted:

  1. The Opinion of the Committee of Regions, COR-WLB
  2. The Opinion of the Economic and Social Committee, EESC-WLB

On Work-Life Balance – the non-legislative part

The Commission declared that it will work on better monitoring of the existing legislation, in particular on dismissals after returning from pregnancy leave as well as the uptake of leave provisions, particularly by fathers. On the issue of dismissals due to pregnancy leave (54 000 cases were document in the UK alone), the Commission instructed it legal network to undertake a full study of the issue.

EU Funding Opportunities – Projects on Work-Life Balance

There is an open call from the Commission – deadline is the 12th of February – on projects on the gender gaps with a view also to the gender pension gap.

The ETUC won a tender for an 18-months project on work-life balance and how collective agreements can help support work-life balance as well as support the goals of the proposed directive.

Gender-based Violence

The European Union this year signed the Istanbul Convention against Violence against Women.  Many states have already ratified the Convention. The EU year of focused actions against violence is coming to an end.  There were four new ratifications recently: Austria, Cyprus, Denmark and Germany.

The UN Committee for the Status of Women (CSW) – 2018

The theme for 2018 will be women in rural areas. The European Commission is preparing a position paper which will need approval of the Council of ministers. The Commission will also be organizing side-events in New York. The Chair of the CSW will be from Ireland; the vice chair will be from Columbia. The Chair will also organize a briefing for the attending NGOs. More information can be found on the internet CSW62 UN Women.

Women in Decision-Making – The European Elections

The Commission adopted a citizenship report in January 2017. Following this, a report was prepared by the European Parliament, which was adopted by the EP in plenary in December. For next year, the European Commission will organize a high-level event on democratic participation with a focus on under-represented groups – as voters and as candidates standing for elections.

There may also be a proposal by the Commission regarding the funding of parties tied to their performance on gender equality.  Unfortunately, there is no more information available for now.

There is also an important legal proposal by the European Parliament to reform the electoral law.  This proposal will be discussed in Council. 

Gender Equality and EU External Relations

There were specific Council conclusions in June 2017 regarding EU action to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), particularly regarding gender sensitive and transformative policies and reviewing them on a regular basis.  The EU adopted an Equality Report this year, which specifically highlights the link of policies to the SDG of 2030.  The results of the report will be presented at a high-level forum in July 2018 in the context of the Central Platform for the Review of the Agenda 2030.  The EU will also work closely with Eurostat to help monitor the SDG by asking Eurostat to use the indicator framework under SDG 5 – specifically for the gender pay gap, the gender employment gap, political representation, violence and inactivity rate due to caring responsibilities.  This will allow for a more regular monitoring.

The Mutual Learning Programme and Gender Equality

The European Commission organized two exchanges under the mutual learning programme in 2017, which specifically dealt with gender equality and tax systems (Sweden, July 2017) and tackling sexual harassment (Copenhagen, September 2017)

The third exchange will now take place on 20-21st of February 2018 in Athens) and will address support services of victims of violence.


Eurobarometer released a survey on the perception of gender equality, the gender pay gap. For example, 64 per cent of the respondents were in favor of transparent pay scales, but only 26 per cent are aware that there are legal obligations for equal pay.

More on Funding Opportunities

  • The Commission issued a call for proposal – open to all – endowed with 3 million EURO on equality gaps over the life-cycle. The deadline for submission is the 22nd of February; for more info see: Calls
  • DG Justice will issue a call for proposal on preventing gender-based violence and violence against children in 5 priority areas: prevention, protection, co-ordination of services, cyber-based violence, promotion of the protection of the child. The call is endowed with 30 million EURO. Date of publication will be communicated.
  • Open call for proposals on equal participation in public/government endowed with 3 million EURO. Date of publication will be communicated.

Upcoming EU presidencies and gender equality

Bulgarian Presidency (01/01/2018 – 30/06/2018) Program on Gender Equality:

The Bulgarian Presidency sports four messages: consensus, competitiveness, cohesion and culture.   Bulgaria foresees specific actions on gender equality, which are part of the trio presidency declaration on gender equality, signed by Estonia, Bulgaria and Austria in July 2017.

Bulgaria will:

  • Organize a meeting of the High-Level Group on Gender Mainstreaming in Sofia on the 31.01-1.02.2018;
  • Co-operate with the European Institute on Gender Equality (EIGE) with a focus on the topic of “Women In the digital world”;
  • Address women’s participation in the area of digitalization in the course of all appropriate events during the Bulgarian presidency;
  • Work with the Social Questions Working Party on the work-life balance package, notably on the proposed directive on work-life balance for parents and carers;
  • Organize a side event during the 62nd Session of the UN Commission for the Status of Women.

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