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More gender equality is needed as a response to the current economic and financial crisis!

Socialist International Women meeting in Lisbon, Portugal

PES Women held its executive meeting last weekend in Lisbon. As progressive feminists in Europe, it is our responsibility to take into consideration one major point when talking about the crisis: the impact on women of austerity-only policies put in place in Europe by the Conservative governments. We focused on the impact of the economic and financial crisis on women. Executive members agreed that one of the most pressing issues was closing the widening gender pay gap due to the crisis.

 

These austerity-only measures translate largely into cuts in public budgets and services being largely privatized. But these cuts affect mostly sectors where women are employed, and public services that primarily benefit women (education, healthcare, social services, etc). Consequently, the crisis and the policies adopted by the right-wing majority have a disproportionate effect on women. In addition to the effects of the crisis itself, the cuts in public budgets and services are doubly harmful for women. This is what I usually call the ‘silent crisis’ and I already raised concerns on this issue more than a year ago. We also need to remember that unfortunately the effects of a lot of this cuts are only starting to come online now.

It is urgent to stop these austerity policies and measures. We should reverse this trend and protect the State role in public services: what we need is to create growth and jobs, including in a public sector, by investing in women. We should revalue the care sector, a very female-dominated sector with low salaries, as well as encourage women to enter new booming sectors, such as IT, research and the green economy and we must develop female entrepreneurship.

Furthermore, it is vital that we close the gender pay gap. The conservative ‘austerity-only’ cuts are making the gender pay gap worse, and this is a factor that contributes to perpetuating the crisis. PES Women members have taken on the challenge of changing this by putting it at the core of the upcoming PES Women campaign.

During the Socialist International Women (SIW) meeting – which I’m part of in my capacity of PES Women President – that followed PES Women executive, we also adopted a resolutionon this issue recognizing the need for a gender perspective in the analysis of the current crisis and especially in its responses.

In the resolution, we recall that “the international financial crisis, caused by neoliberal globalization is determining public policy, is being paid for by the poorest, and by women in particular. Many governments’ response to the crisis has been to push the neoliberal agenda further by presenting austerity measures as the only solution to recovery.” We then make clear that “women are disproportionately affected by both the crisis and this solution.”

Consequently, we urge to “recognize gender equality as a driving force for social and economic development” as well as to “ensure women's access to paid work and salaries that ensure women's economic independence now and in the future”.

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