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women past
Photo: Paul Townsend (Flickr); Licence: CC BY-ND 2.0

In the past women have done a variety of jobs: from working in factories during war periods to steamming tobacco leaves.
In this picture Florence Brown, the first female Lord Major of Bristol, returns to her old job for a few minutes (June 1963).

 

Women's employment is one of those evergreen issues in the agenda of the old continent. Besides dusty stereotypes that still relegate women to few sectors of care and other social needs, the problem of women's employment has been worsened by the recent economic crisis. E&M author Nicoletta Enria approaches the topic and unveils European trends when it comes to women's education, wages and their presence in decision-making positions.

In the past couple of years, issues regarding gender equality have entered mainstream discourse with cries for gender parity by the likes of American actress Patricia Arquette in her Oscar acceptance speech and British actress and UN Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson’s #HeForShe campaign calling for men to join the battle. Although proposals for gender equality in the economic, political and cultural spheres seem to have become popular again, how far has this actually gone in providing concrete progress for women? With a backdrop of financial instability bringing forth a rise in unemployment and austerity measures, what is the European job market looking like for women nowadays?

The European Commission stated in its 2014 Report on Equality between Men and Women that gender equality is not only a fundamental right but is also essential for economic growth. Needless to say, the financial crisis affected a whole generation, resulting in a sharp rise in unemployment, especially for young people. However, the proportion of inactive young women remains double that of young men. Austerity measures in countries such as Greece have led to cuts in public, health and care sectors — all sectors which normally employ women. This is leading to a rise in women unemployment and a rise in unpaid care work for women, with currently 45% of Greek women living below the poverty threshold. This also casts a light on the problem of occupational segregation, which is when your gender defines what ranking or job you get based on gender stereotypes deeply engrained in our society.

Published in Contentious Europe
Tuesday, 24 April 2012 18:54

Hablais European?

Madrid welcomed us with a hideous hostel and overpriced tapas. Instead of enjoying a heavy Spanish red wine at a nice restaurant and uploading our latest pictures via free Wifi access, we were hunted down by ominous figures in the streets who offered us free drinks at even more ominous bars. We were surprised. Is it really profitable to pay someone to lure tourists into cheap bars on a Sunday night? Not to mention that this was Easter Sunday. But our first impression was quickly superseded when we glanced at the streets of Chueca the next morning and walked towards the Parque del Retiro to interview young Madrilenos about Europe, the crisis and German tourists in Spain. (This article was originally published for the Euroskop project, a travel blog about today's Europe.)

The park is crowded with people who don't want to miss the extraordinary weather on this bank holiday. Perfect conditions for us. We approach a group of young Spaniards in the shade. Before they can think of an excuse not to talk to us, we have set up the camera and mic and begin to ask them our questions. How has the crisis affected the young Spanish population? Are the Indignados angry at national or European politicians? What is the justification for European support to Spain? Paula and her friends react a little shyly, but then she says: "All of my friends are looking for work abroad, none of them counts on finding a job in Spain. Europe has to help us, unless you want to leave us behind." Paula is about to finish a postgrqaduate degree in tourism, one of Spain's traditionally strong economic sectors. But tourists don't seem to like groggy economies. The number of visitors has drastically declined, no longer ranking Spain among the top tourist countries.

National pride has certainly suffered, as has the social structure within Spain. 50% youth unemployment and mass emigration of well-educated people doesn't leave a country unaffected. "But it doesn't make any sense to cut Erasmus support, as the government now intends to do," says Diego, who is studying political science. Young people are frustrated by their politicians. Some prefer European politicians, but no one wants to be governed by an anonymous institution abroad. As Christian, a young entrepreneur, puts it: "About 60 percent of the Spanish population don't speak any English, they cannot grasp what is going on in Europe. And they aren't interested either. This was reflected in the national elections last November; no eurosceptic party evolved, the conservatives received an absolute majority. If at all, people are continuing to think in old political terms." His picture of Spain's future isn't exactly bright. If there's a way out, he says, it has to be more Europeanisation and globalisation. 

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