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EU must improve equality between men and women

The European Commission's latest annual report on gender equality has found that improving equality between women and men is essential to the EU's response to the current economic crisis.

"The economic case for getting more women into the workforce and more women into top jobs in the EU is overwhelming," said Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission in charge of Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. "We can only reach our economic and employment goals by making full use of all our human resources – both in the labour market as a whole and at the top. This is an essential part of our economic recovery plans."

In the labour market, the employment rate for women is 62.1%, compared to 75.1% for men, meaning the EU can only reach the overall Europe 2020 target rate of 75% employment with a strong commitment to gender equality.

Under the Europe 2020 strategy, the Commission has highlighted the need to promote a better work-life balance, in particular through adequate childcare, more access to flexible working arrangements, and by making sure tax and benefit systems do not penalise second earners. These can all help to make sure more women enter and remain in the labour market.

The gender pay gap has narrowed slightly across the EU. On average, women earn 16.4% less than men for every hour worked. The gender pay gap is caused by multiple factors such as labour market segregation and differences in educational choices. Slow progress in narrowing the gender gap in company boardrooms led the Commission to launch a public consultation on possible measures at EU level to address the problem, which risks holding back innovation and growth in Europe.

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