Trade unions for a new framework of the European Strategy for Equality between women and men – Results of the ETUC survey

(6 June 2015) The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) conducted its 8th survey on positions of women in the European trade union movement, which was released mid-May. Its aim is to assess progress in reducing the representation and decision-making gap between women and men in trade unions. Up to 52 national trade union confederations responded. The first part of the study highlights general trends about female membership. The second part focuses on the claims of ETUC members to define the new strategic framework for the European Strategy for Equality between women and men.
Among the 48 national confederations which were able to indicate the number of their women members, women account for 43.8% of the total members. The confederations with the highest rates of female members are still the ones from the Nordic and Baltic sea, when the Turkish and the Cypriot confederations have the lowest. Furthermore, since 2008, the general number of members has declined but the number and proportion of women has increased (from 44.2% to 49.7%), which confirms the tendency of the positive contribution of women in slowing the decline of trade union membership in Europe. Regarding the positions of women within trade unions, the survey shows that women are heavily under-represented for all the positions of power: only eight women (14.5%) have a real leadership position in their national confederation. However their situation looks better within European trade union federations with as much as 43% of women in leadership.

Globally, indicators show that progress on gender equality has been slow in the last years, both related to the economic situation in Europe and to the policy implemented to address the crisis at all levels. Trade unions have favourable views on the current European Strategy for Equality between women and men 2010-2015. However, they also pointed out some weaknesses regarding the lack of clarity in the actions proposed and the need for more binding tools. Also, the positive impact of the Strategy was seen more in terms of awareness raising and guidance on governments rather than really influencing policy developments at national level.

Thus, as the European Strategy for Equality between women and men for 2010-2015 comes to an end, trade unions generally sees its impact as positive. Its broad scope, which covers areas from economic and social issues to the elimination of the gender pay gap, promotion of women in decision-making, the elimination of violence against women, work on gender stereotypes and promoting gender equality beyond the EU, should be kept as a basis for the new strategic framework for gender equality which is to be defined. With this respect, trade unions call for a stronger focus on women’s economic independence within the new strategy. Also, reconciliation of private and working life, and equal pay for work of equal value are defined as the desirable focus of European activities for the next period. Eventually, unions claim for the implementation of legal tools and binding processes in order to guarantee real progresses for gender equality.

- Find the complete survey here