8 March - International Women's Day

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Message of Gabriele Bischoff, President of the Workers' Group

On 8 of March I always remember the Beautiful Song of our movement:

We want bread but Roses too. This year we also want the Work-Life Balance Directive.


International Women's Day on 8 of March is a beautiful opportunity to remember, what we have achieved, and what still lies ahead of us. This year the Workers' Group is focusing particularly on men …and penguins. Why focus on men on a day that celebrates women? Because gender equality is not just a women's issue. Without the engagement of men, we will never achieve true gender equality.

The average take up of paternity leave and / or parental leave by men in the EU Member States is only 10%.  In some Members States it is as low as 5%! Women continue to bear the main responsibility for caring for children and other dependents, including elderly relatives, as well as doing the majority share of work in the home. We will never achieve gender equality if we do not tackle these stereotypes.

The European Commission is trying to do just that with its new proposal for legislation on work-life balance for parents and carers. The Workers' Group fully supports this initiative. People are not working machines: we work and engage, but we also want to spend time with our children and families; we want to be there when they need us, in case they are sick and need support.

The Commission wants to introduce a right to paid paternity leave for fathers at the time of the birth. It is also proposing to introduce paid parental leave. This is a leave that both parents can take currently up until the child is 8. But it isn't paid. And that's one of the main reasons why take up by men is so low. Under the Commission's proposal parental leave would now be paid and parents could take it up until the child is 12 years old.

But what about the penguins? Well, they are natural examples of sharing of responsibilities in parenting! After the female lays her egg, she transfers it to her mate before leaving in search for food. The male will guard and keep the egg warm, sometimes for up to two months, before the egg hatches and the female return.

The new legislation proposed by the Commission is an essential driver for women to be able to enter and stay in the labour market but also to promote more gender equality at all levels, from inside the family to employment and the broader society. Yes, it will cost money. But this as an investment in families, in people, in the economy, and ultimately in our joint future.

This is the added value of Europe: setting common minimum standards. This means that a teacher in Bratislava, a factory worker in Newcastle or a restaurant worker in Berlin would all have the same range of options to help them balance their work and family responsibilities. This is why the Workers' Group is supporting the campaign #IwantWorkLifeBalance. Men and women, children and parents all deserve it. It is our Europe, Social, Just and Democratic.

On 8 of March I always remember the Beautiful Song of our movement:

We want bread but Roses too. This year we also want the Work-Life Balance Directive.

In Solidarity