Gender differences and equality issue in Europe: critical aspects of gender mainstreaming policies and of European social model
Dept. Education University of Macerata Macerata, Italy
The Lisbon Council invited the Commission and Member States to promote all aspects concerning equal opportunities in the field of employment policies, including the reduction of occupational segregation and the possibility to balance work and family life and to solve some of the increasing problems affecting several countries, such as lower and later fertility and the ensuing ageing of the population. Further, the basic idea of the ESM is that economic and social progress must go hand in hand; economic growth, in other words, is to be combined with social cohesion.
If gender mainstreaming is the major global strategy for the promotion of gender equality, clear intergovernmental mandates for gender mainstreaming have been developed for all the major areas of the work of the United Nations and European Commission, including disarmament, poverty reduction, macro-economics, health, education and trade. The evaluation of equal opportunities mainly focus on qualification measures for unemployed women and improvements for childcare facilities, on the consideration of gender mainstreaming in other policy areas as well as macro economic effects on employment and unemployment of women. It shows, that the promotion of qualification measures and childcare facilities increases the activity rate of women, although there remain doubts about the quality and sustainability of many measures and the impact on families. Although some significant improvements have certainly been made - especially in terms of women´s emancipation, gender equity and maternity policies - it should however be noticed that some fundamental issues still remain unresolved and continue to cause problems. Such framework - equal opportunities on the one hand and female emancipation on the other, in a competitive and little-regulated market - seems to lead to a potential contraposition, or trade-off, between equal opportunity and family (or family-friendly) policies. In particular this paper focuses on the relation between gender mainstreaming and equality issue to stress if and how the debate on the topic is a real way to improve equality without missing gender differences and women´s rights.