Publication Gender Relations - Labour / Unions - Europe - Feminism Sustainable Illusions?

Women's labour market participation in the EU: obstacles and policy levers


Photo: IMAGO / Panthermedia

The European Union has a long tradition of, at least rhetorically, supporting women’s labour market participation and promoting social security policies. The EU’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are among its most recent attempts to achieve this, with the SDGs’ promise to end “all forms of discrimination against all women and girls everywhere”.

Katarina Jaklin is a sociologist at the Institute for Social Research in Zagreb.

Dora Levačić is a sociologist, and currently works as editor of the regional news portal Bilten.

Have such policies yielded any substantive results when it comes to improving women’s economic position?

Focusing on four European countries, the study Sustainable Illusions? shows that it is still largely women who take on the burden of care work, which in turn negatively impacts their prospects on the labour market. In other words, gender inequality still persists despite some positive trends.

For real change to happen, a radically different approach from the one suggested by the SDGs is needed. This approach must be based on transformative feminist policies that prioritize the quality of work and reproductive work, as well as tackle ongoing trends such as the individualization of care, the dismantling of the welfare state, and the weakening of trade unions.

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