Poverty has a female face: economic crisis hits women hardest 

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Women suffer more than men from crisis-driven budget and social spending cuts, which must be offset by investing in job training and female entrepreneurship, say MEPs in a non binding resolution adopted on Tuesday. Two other resolutions look at measures to combat gender stereotyping in the EU and to protect women's rights in North Africa.

“Women are facing a silent crisis which worsens and weakens their condition. Before the economic crisis unemployment, precarious work, part-time work, low salaries and slow career paths already affected women more then men. Today, with the effects of austerity policies, they are suffering a double punishment,” said rapporteur Elisabeth Morin-Chartier (EPP, FR) in Monday's debate marking International Women's Day.

Parliament points out that cuts in education, childcare and care services have pushed women to work shorter hours or part-time, thereby reducing not only their income but their pensions as well.

Invest in women

MEPs say that to restore growth and to reverse the effects of the crisis, member states must invest in lifelong training, re-skilling policies, teleworking and new jobs, promote female entrepreneurship and develop child-care facilities. They must also include women in decision-making and promote gender balance on company boards.

The resolution on the impact of the crisis on gender equality and women's rights was passed by 495 votes to 96, with 69 abstentions.

Fighting gender stereotypes

Gender stereotypes also contribute to the feminisation of poverty, say MEPs. They persist in the labour market in sectors such as engineering and childcare, leading to occupational segregation and the gender pay gap.

"Stereotypes and lower pay increase the risk for women to fall into poverty, particularly for older women, also due to low pensions," said rapporteur Katrika Tamara Liotard (GUE/NGL, NL). She added: "the media can contribute to reducing female stereotypes."

The EP calls on the Commission and the member states to use EU programmes, such as the European Social Fund, to get more women into professions where they are under-represented and to guarantee equal pay for equal work.

They call for measures to combat gender stereotyping in education, from the kindergarten onwards, and in the media, advertising, the labour market and politics. MEPs also insist that the female image should be portrayed in a way that respects women's dignity instead of sexualising girls and women.

The non binding resolution on eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU was adopted by 368 votes to 159, with 98 abstentions.

North Africa

Parliament calls for better use to be made of EU instruments in order to protect women's rights in the countries of North Africa and it asks their authorities to enshrine the principle of equality between women and men in their constitutions and to end all forms of discrimination and violence against women.

"This is a strong and unequivocal signal of solidarity and support to women who are fighting in North Africa for freedom, democracy and universal human rights of men and women against all forms of discrimination and violence. As they explained, for them it is the same battle. We need to support and accompany this difficult transition and ensure their rights are recognised and protected in the constitution and in the legislation," said Silvia Costa (S&D, IT), who drafted the resolution.

This non-binding resolution was approved by a show of hands.

Procedure: Non-legislative resolution