Challenges to gender equality and the transport sector – the key issues discussed by the Consultative Committee of the European Economic Area

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The Consultative Committee of the European Economic Area (EEA CC) recently drew attention to gender gaps in the labour market and to challenges faced by the transport sector in the EEA. On 3 and 4 May two reports and resolutions concerning these issues were adopted by members of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and by social partners from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway at the Committee's 26th meeting, which took place in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Gender equality contributes to economic growth

The report and resolution on 'Work-life balance' highlighted the importance of a properly functioning labour market in the EEA as part of which men and women are treated equally and benefit from the same opportunities. The rapporteurs – EESC member Kinga Joó and member of the EFTA Consultative Committee Kathrine Fauske – emphasised that gender equality was an important factor behind economic growth and that sound work-life balance policies should not be seen in terms of cost to society but rather as a form of social investment.

In the EU the employment rate for women is 11.6 percentage points lower than the rate for men, and women, on average, earn less than men, despite the fact that in the EU a higher proportion of women complete higher education than men. The rapporteurs noted that further progress was still needed in order to close gender gaps in the areas of employment, earnings, social protection and pensions.

The resolution also highlighted the importance of flexible working conditions so as to enable workers with caring responsibilities to balance their family commitments with full-time employment. For instance, the negative employment impact of parenthood is greater for women, and the difference between employment rates for women and men increases according to the number of children women have.

Sustainable transport should promote fair working conditions

The report and resolution on 'A socially fair road transport sector in the EEA with effectively enforced common rules' emphasised the fact that the transport sector, which is experiencing a period of major change, faces challenges relating to the environment, to developments in digital technologies and to labour market transformation.

The rapporteurs – EESC member Judy McKnight and member of the EFTA Consultative Committee Björg Ásta Þórðardóttir – expressed concern about the fragmentation of the internal transport market, uncoordinated national measures and heavy administrative burdens for operators. The resolution stressed the need to sustain an internal market that functions well and a clean and sustainable transport sector that creates growth and competitive businesses while promoting proper working conditions in the EEA.

The rapporteurs welcomed the acknowledgement that the overall objective of strengthening the social dimension of Europe, in line with the European Pillar of Social Rights, must also apply to the road transport sector. The mobility sector is a significant source of employment, providing work for more than 11 million people in the EU. The road transport sector accounts for almost half of the total freight transport activity, and it is estimated that from 2010 to 2050, freight transport will grow by 60%.

The members also discussed EEA developments and the consequences of Brexit, while Hanna Katrín Friðriksson (MP, Liberal Reform Party), gave a presentation on gender equality in Iceland which focussed on the new law relating to equal pay.

Background:

The European Economic Area Consultative Committee (EEA CC) was created in 1994. It represents employers, workers and other civil society players of EEA member states. Non-EU members include Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Switzerland sends observers. The Committee comprises representatives of the EESC and of the EFTA Consultative Committee. The EEA CC meets once a year. At each of its meetings, the EEA CC adopts resolutions and reports related to various aspects of the internal market, as well as to important developments in the EEA.