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Gender pay gap widens following cuts to public sector jobs and pay

(EPSU press release, Brussels 28 July 2011) The European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) has sent an open letter to European Commissioner Viviane Reding (read below) demanding that it takes action to ensure that the work done to date to close the gender pay gap is not rolled back as a result of the cuts implemented across Europe as governments seek to reduce their deficits in the wake of the banking bailouts. Speaking on behalf of the more than 5 million women affiliated to EPSU, the letter yet again waves a red flag regarding the effects of austerity measures - which wrongly and unfairly target the public sector - on low paid women in the public service.

New evidence arising from an EPSU commissioned study by Lionel Fulton of the Labour Research Department shows that in some countries which have implemented drastic cuts to public sector jobs and/or wages, women have been disproportionately affected by these cuts. EPSU had already written to the Commission raising the issue of the need for gender impact assessments of these austerity policies in July 2010. In the absence of a satisfactory response EPSU commissioned the research to look at the situation in four countries that have introduced far-reaching cuts to public sector pay and/or jobs. Despite a lack of statistical evidence from some of the countries studied, the available data reveals that there has been a widening of the overall gender pay gap in at least two of the countries. EPSU has therefore written to the Commission again calling on it to take action to stem this trend.

The report concludes: “employment in the public sector is crucial to women’s overall employment, both in terms of number but also in terms of the pay they receive, despite this, the governments did not undertake an assessment of the particular impact on women of the measures they took”.

EPSU is extremely concerned about the long term effects short-sighted austerity policies will have on gender equality. In addition to the impact on women’s employment and wages, many of the other measures served up as part of the bitter austerity diet – such as cuts in child benefits and care provision for children and older people - put an extra burden on low paid women workers, a group of society that was not at the root cause of the financial and economic crisis. By contrast, it is essentially back to business for the high-earning bankers, with massive bonuses back in their pockets.

Gloria Mills CBE, Chair of the EPSU Women and Gender Equality Committee said “we have struggled for many years for gender equality and a better understanding of the gender pay gap and the measures needed to address it. However, the harsh austerity policies focused on the erosion of the public sector are putting what progress we have made at risk. This is unacceptable and we will fight to ensure that the gains we have made are not eroded. Equality on all fronts is a mark of a united and civilized society – it is not just for times of economic prosperity.”

In the light of the European Commission proposals on Economic Governance, EPSU warns again of the blatant contradiction between the European Union’s gender equality policy and the effects of its overall economic strategy.

Carola Fischbach-Pyttel, EPSU General Secretary, states that “whilst there is undoubtedly a need for better European economic governance, the package currently being adopted is taking us in the wrong direction. We see yet another example of a clear contradiction between the objectives set out in EU policies such as the Europe 2020 Strategy and the Gender Equality Strategy 2010-2015 and the concrete actions being pursued”.

In the letter EPSU demands:

-  that gender impact assessments of the effects of the austerity policies be carried out, with involvement of the social partners;
-  that Member States provide up to date, de-gendered statistics on employment and earnings in the public sector;
-  action to address the under-valuation of women’s work and tackle low-pay;
-  a revision of EU public procurement rules to strengthen the social dimension, including equality clauses
-  an assessment of the social impacts of the crisis and measures to mitigate this and ensure that social dialogue at EU and national levels in the public sector plays a central role.

EPSU will continue its campaign against the one-sided austerity measures that have a heavy burden on low-paid women workers.

For more information contact: Pablo Sanchez, 00 32 474 62 66 33 , psanchez epsu.org

- Press release

PDF - 273.3 kb
Press release



- Letter to the European Commission

PDF - 335.6 kb
Letter