Eradicate female poverty in Europe

MEPs call on the Commission and EU countries to address the inequalities women face, such as barriers to the labor market and access to affordable childcare.

In a report adopted on Tuesday with 535 votes in favour, 18 against and 79 abstentions, MEPs call for gender to be integrated more effectively into policies to tackle homelessness, lack of access to affordable and adequate housing and energy. The Commission must develop an ambitious EU poverty strategy for 2030, with concrete targets and a focus on eliminating women’s poverty, they say.

The worsening social and economic situation has increased all forms of abuse and violence against women, MEPs point out. They urge Member States to provide support to women fleeing situations of gender-based violence, as a life free from violence is fundamental if women are to participate in the labor market, realize their full potential and have financial independence.

Female-dominated work must be remunerated more fairly

The COVID-19 crisis has shown that women working in the social, care, cleaning, education, health and retail sectors play a central role in keeping our societies functioning, says the text. MEPs call for the use of gender-neutral cross-sector job evaluation tools to more fairly assess and compensate female-dominated work. Such tools would also ensure equal pay for equal work and work of equal value, while strengthening female entrepreneurship in small and medium enterprises. Ensuring accessible and quality public and private childcare services would improve women’s opportunities in the labor market.

Member states should avoid gender discrimination in their tax policies and eliminate VAT on feminine hygiene items, MEPs urge. They also argue that Member States should take gender into account when reforming pension systems, which should include compensation for unpaid care work.

“Poverty is always unacceptable, but it is incomprehensible in a rich region like Europe. The structural poverty of women is even more difficult to understand,” said the rapporteur Lina Galvez Munoz (S&D, ES). “It is closely linked to the discrimination that women suffer simply because they are women, and is closely linked to child poverty. In recent years, female poverty and the gender poverty gap have increased in almost all Member States. We must act urgently to tackle women’s poverty, which is worsening due to Russia’s war on Ukraine and wages falling as prices rise,” she added.

According to Eurostat, in 2020 the risk of poverty and social exclusion in the EU was higher for women (22.9%) than for men (20.9%). Since 2017, the gender poverty gap has increased in 21 Member States. Due to the strong correlation between female poverty and child poverty, 1 in 4 children in the EU is at risk of poverty or social exclusion.

Mary I. Bruner