The jobs crisis and female empowerment
Europe is currently grappling a period of tight labour market. The labour shortage in Germany, pension reforms in France and an ageing population dwindling the labour force in many countries have all resulted in rising costs for businesses and governments. According to the Financial Times, a policy that would boost the modern-day labour shortage in Europe is female empowerment.
The OECD reported that only 68 per cent of women aged between 20 and 64 within the EU are in work - 10 percentage points less than the proportion for men. Yet, there has been clear evidence of the benefits of closing this gap. For example, the OECD also predicted that Italy’s economy could expand by as much as 14 per cent if as many women were employed as men. There is also the benefit of boosting productivity in the economy. Willem Adema, senior economist in the OECD Social Policy Division confirmed, “Younger women are much more likely, on average to have achieved a high level of educational attainment compared to young men”. This in turn translates to higher positivity in the workforce.
A significant factor contributing to thus gap across the continent has been inadequate childcare provision - it continues to be expensive and in short supply. A government survey revealed that in the UK, working parents struggle to find term-time childcare that fitted in with their working hours.
However, the solution is much larger than improving childcare provision alone. Chidi King, chief of the International Labour Organization’s gender, equality, diversity and inclusion branch said, “Policies need to prioritise breaking down deeply ingrained structural barriers and discrimination in the world of work”. She also stressed that governments should address the unequal sharing of care responsibilities, unequal pay for work of equal value, gender-based violence and harassment and outdated social and cultural norms.