On International Women's Day we celebrate women, remembering not only what we have achieved, but what still lies ahead of us. This year the Workers' Group is focusing particularly on men. Why focus on men on a day that celebrates women? Because gender equality is not just a women's issue. Without engaging men we will never achieve true gender equality.
In the European Union, the average uptake of paternity leave and / or parental leave by men is only 10%. In some Members States it is as low as 5%. Women bear the main responsibility for caring for children and other dependents, as well as doing the majority of work in the home. We will never achieve gender equality without tackling these stereotypes.
The European Commission's proposal for legislation on work-life balance for parents and carers would certainly help. It would introduce a right to paid paternity leave for fathers at the time of the birth. It would also introduce paid parental leave. Parents can already take parental leave up until the child is 8, however payment is not compulsory. This is one of the main reasons why so few men take it. The Commission proposes that parental leave be paid and available until the child is 12 years old. It also proposes a new right to 5 days paid carers' leave.
This is the added value of Europe: setting common minimum standards. It is our Europe, Social, Just and Democratic.
On 8 March, I always remember our movement's beautiful song:
We want bread but roses too. This year we also want the Work-Life Balance Directive.
Gabriele Bischoff is the president of the EESC's Workers' Group.