COVID-19 has increased inequalities in the European Union. Those most affected are women, minorities, people with disabilities and people living in or at risk of poverty. We discussed these issues, which are at the top of the EU agenda this year, with the European Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli.
On average, women earn 14% less than men in the EU. What measures do you propose to reduce this gap?
Helena Dalli, EU Equality Commissioner:
“Yes, as you have rightly pointed out, women and minorities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, but as you rightly say, there is this 14% gender pay gap that needs to be addressed. Actually, it has been in. treaties since 1957, the principle of equal remuneration for equal work or for work of equal value. Therefore, it is a priority for us to present a proposal for directive allowing wage transparency“.
Some companies are reluctant to implement wage transparency measures. Do you foresee sanctions?
“I am a firm believer in social dialogue, and it is important that workers ‘unions, employers’ unions, civil society are all on board when we make a proposal. I am sure that employers there are some model employers, of which I have spoken and that they already have the mechanism to see that this salary transparency exists and they inform us that their employees are very happy. So I am sure that the employers, there are many employers, who are already on board and that there will be more “.
Are the member states willing to follow your directive or are you willing to overcome some reluctance of the member states?
“From the comments I have so far, there are a lot of member states that are interested in the proposal. And I’m sure, I mean, governments want to do the best for their citizens. I’m sure governments don’t want this kind of discrimination continues to happen. So really, I don’t think there should be much objection to maybe some adjustments. But definitely, this is in the interest of all of our citizens. And I’m sure governments will want to promote this. “
The pandemic has worsenedthe situationfor women in the labor market, but also at home. Violence against women has increased, how to tackle this situation?
“This is very true, and many member states have reported an increase in violence against women. There were member states that took certain actions to address the current situation, especially during confinement when women were in spaces with their abusers and could not get away from this situation. So obviously there is the ratification of the Istanbul Convention, which the European Union has signed but has not yet ratified because we have not succeeded in getting all the Member States to ratify it. But we will have our own legislation also at the end of the year, I will present legislation that protects women and girls in situations of violence. “
The Istanbul convention is a text to fight violence against women. One member state in particular, Poland, is considering withdrawing from it. What can be done to convince governments to remain part of this convention and to strengthen women’s rights?
“Well, it will be a shame if this happens. But I also know this from speaking with the civil society organizations in Poland and also with the MEPs who come from Poland and also with the national parliamentarians, and who are obviously also against this. So there is a lot of pressure against this event. “
You have just presented your strategy for disabled people who are more isolated than ever due to the pandemic. What is the goal of your strategy?
“Well, this is the new strategy for the next 10 years, we will support, with knowledge, with funds, the member states so that we move towards a union of equality and equality, it means that everyone in the European Union has access to a job , to education, to housing, to health without excluding anyone, it is our job to advance in a way where we really have a union of equality ”.
What measures do you propose to address? accessibility tobuildingstransportation and education?
“Well, accessibility, we are talking, for example, of an accessibility card. We have carried out a pilot project, in eight member states, and our goal is to extrapolate this to all member states to help. It is freedom of movement, but if you have a disability and you plan to go to a member state that does not recognize certain aspects of your rights, then we should have this common accessibility card. This will help people with disabilities to travel more freely, for example. “
Some parts of its strategy resemble the previous European strategy. What is different with this new one?
“Well, we can’t say that in the last 10 years, everything that had to be done was done. And new realities are also emerging. So I wouldn’t say that there has been this 10-year strategy, that’s all. We have achieved it! “No. So we have another strategy for the next 10 years to keep up, we keep the pressure also on the Member States so that they can improve what they have already done. There is always room for improvement. So it is never the end.”
To see the full exclusive interview with Helena Dalli, the EU Commissioner for Equality, click on the media player above.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism