Enhancing Social Inclusion through the Upscaling of Women and Men Skills within the EU Labour Market

Author: Renee Laiviera
The enhancement of the economic independence of both women and men can foster social inclusion.  Women, in most EU Member States, are less present in the labour market and lack a financial independence that may put them at a risk of poverty and social exclusion. The Europe 2020 Strategy, recognising this reality, has included the participation of women and men in the labour market as one of its targets; seeking to foster growth and jobs, alongside other targets such as lifting more people out of poverty and improving educational attainment.

Progress has been made, and across Europe, an increase in the participation of women in the labour market has been registered. However, various gender gaps and inequalities persist.  Particularly, the underrepresentation of women in the labour market; occupational segregation; and gender inequalities in a number of working conditions such as pay and earnings, all of which challenge the achievement of gender equality and social inclusion.  

Moreover, low-qualified people face a higher risk of permanent exclusion from the labour market, whichoften results in poverty and social exclusion, with low-qualified women facing additional challenges due to structural inequalities and persisting gender stereotypes.  Overall, women face a higher risk of working under precarious conditions throughout their lives.  

In light of such challenges, the Maltese Government has made the upscaling of skills with particular reference to women in the labour market, one of its political priorities during the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, and has tabled draft Council Conclusions on the topic for discussion and adoption by the Member States.  The aim is to address the situation of women and men trapped in low-income precarious work without any opportunities for advancement due to a lack of skills; and women and men who find difficulties in regaining employment.  

To this end, the Minister for Social Dialogue, Consumer Affairs and Civil Liberties, Dr Helena Dalli, requested the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), to conduct research on the topic which will serve as a basis in  preparation of the Council Conclusions. 

The Council Conclusions seek to promote equal economic independence for women and men, close gender gaps and combat segregation in the labour market, in line with the respective priority areas of the European Commission’s Strategic Engagement for Gender Equality 2016-2019 and the European Pact for Gender Equality (2011-2020). These promote equal opportunities for women and men in order to enhance their employability and to participate in further education, training and life-long learning.

Equal opportunities in employment contribute to improved economic independence, enable women and men to be more active and participant, and enhance social inclusion. 

About the author
The author is the Commissioner of the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) and NCPE's Acting Executive Director