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The European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR): a gender perspective

Goldsmiths, University of London

Room MMB 110, 8 Lewisham Way, New Cross, London SE14 6NW
27 Jan 2020 4 p.m. – 6 p.m.

Research seminar by Prof Marcella Corsi (Sapienza University of Rome)

The economic and financial crisis had led to increasing Euroscepticism and most EU citizens, even in those states not directly affected by austerity and cuts in social services, think that the Union is moving in the wrong direction. More importantly, economic and social dislocation has been experienced by the majority of EU citizens, and has hit citizens in the periphery of the Eurozone especially. In this context, the discussion surrounding the European Pillar of Social Rights (EPSR) became a necessity, and was endorsed widely. 

The principles on which the Pillar has to be based  range from equal opportunities and non-discrimination in the labour market to adequate social protection, encouraging social dialogue, the right to a healthy work environment and adequate income as well as long-term care, unemployment benefits and access to essential services.1 The process entails the creation of a social Scoreboard, whereby 12 indicators are used to measure labour market access, poverty and social exclusion, inequality (including gender-based discrimination), living conditions, childcare, healthcare and digital access.

The Pillar is a very positive step but its potential can be fulfilled only under two preconditions: a) proceed with new legislation or stricter implementation of current rules on worker protection and anti-discrimination; b) go beyond supply side measures (labour market access) and embrace bold initiatives pertaining to social protection and inclusion as well. 

From a gender perspective, the EPSR is an opportunity for the EU to design and implement sustainable and effective policies that benefit all - women and men. Setting and reaching gender-specific targets can facilitate closing gender gaps, achieving a fairer society and it can also contribute to growth and more effective economies.

In our project we aim to addressing, following the principles of the EPSR, gender inequalities in accessing the labour market as well as working conditions as necessary for effective welfare systems. 

It is necessary to reaffirm the importance of measures to promote better work-life balance for women and men, such as an adequate supply of affordable, high quality and flexible care services for children and other dependents (i.e. elderly care), as well as flexible work and parental/care leave arrangements. Despite some progress, the provision of childcare facilities, in particular for children less than three years old still fall short of the Barcelona targets. Care availability is also often linked to formal job search (i.e. free access to public childcare facilities only granted if employed or registered unemployed), leaving those who are in a situation of economic inactivity with limited or no real pathways to benefit from childcare opportunities. It is also necessary for reconciliation measures to appeal to fathers as well as mothers, for example, legislative measures in a form of father’s quotas to promote the take up of paternity/parental leave have been proven to be effective in initiating the respective change. The situation of one-parent families should also be addressed as almost half of lone mothers and a third of lone fathers live at risk of poverty or social exclusion and the difference is caused mainly by the fact that lone mothers are more often living in households with low work intensity. 

Applying a life-course perspective allows for understanding work-life balance in broader terms and including measures to address elderly and dependent care as well. Societies would benefit from investing in and developing high quality, accessible and affordable care services and infrastructure for elderly people and dependent persons. 

Alongside gender pension gap and limited economic independence of women in older age, the EPSR chapter on social protection implies several gender challenges. Social protection systems serve their purpose only if they are adjusted to tackle new challenges such as the ageing population, changing family structures, new migration flows, as well as diversification of forms and conditions of employment. Social protection systems and anti-poverty policies in particular must guarantee sufficient economic protection not just for traditional forms of gainful employment over the life-course, but especially for those carrying out unpaid care work, those engaged in non-standard or precarious employment, and those affected by career interruptions caused by care responsibilities. Furthermore, in order to achieve sustainable employment and economic growth, a better understanding needs to be achieved on the negative/positive effects of tax systems on gender equality and associated socio-economic targets. Increasingly monetary effects of the social welfare systems can only be fully comprehended when the full impact of taxes is accounted for – so as to better understand what disposable (net) income levels households or individuals have and what associated social and employment impacts are.

No booking required

Marcella Corsi is Professor of Economics at the Sapienza University of Rome, where she coordinates Minerva - Laboratory on Gender Diversity and Gender Inequality. She holds a Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Manchester (UK) and a degree in Statistics/Economics from University of Rome “La Sapienza”. She has worked as consultant for European Commission, European Parliament and OECD, and for several Italian institutions. She is among the founders of the web-magazine inGenere (www.ingenere.it).

Her research activity mainly focuses on issues related to Social Inclusion, Social protection and Income distribution (often in a gender perspective). In these fields of study, she is the author of several articles published in English and Italian, and she has been one of the editors of Classical Economics Today (Anthem Press 2018). Since March 2017 she is chief editor of the International Review of Sociology.


Organising committee

Maxime Desmarais-Tremblay

Eurydice Fotopoulou