Study Report on PES approaches to the promotion of gender equality
This report explores the current position in regard to gender equality as a field of
intervention in European Public Employm ent Services (PES). Information was obtained
from individual PES through their completion of a survey questionnaire distributed through
the EU PES Network and to which 25 PES Network members resp onded.
Addressing gender discrimination in the labour market has been a priority of European
employment policy since the foundation of the European Economic Community. The EU
PES Network Decision establishing the PES Network noted its central contributi on to the
achievement of a 75% employment rate for women and men as stated in the Europe 2020
strategy. The current PES Network Strategy Pa per has reiterated PES commitment to this
ESF has been an especially important vehicle enabling activities to promote labour market
gender equality. This has been a prominent feature since at least the 2000-2007
programming period. This has been further advanced during the 2014-2020 period,
particularly through the thematic objective to promote sustainable and quality employment
and support labour mobility.
At the time of writing (November 2020) the European economy is in the midst of very
significant disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst the longer-term consequences
remain a subject of considerable debate it is already clear from the immediate impact that
policy interventions are urgently needed to mitigate th e risk of adverse labour market
consequences falling disproportionately on women.
It is also recognised t hat the crisis can present opportunities to enhance gender equality,
and for these to be realised national policies will need to be efficiently implemented , and
PES are key actors in facilitating this.
The first PES respons es to the pandemic have focussed on measures to prevent
unemployment, address the needs of jobseekers, and consider how to adjust to structural,
post-crisis labour market changes. It is imperative that these positive responses are
reinforced through the inclusion of gender equality outcomes as explicit objective s.
In th eir questionnaire responses, most PES recognised that women face multiple
challenges from labour market segregation hindering their successful labour market
participation and leading to a gr eater propensity to be employed in precarious, part-time,
and low paid work. Inadequate support for caring responsibilities disproportionately falling
to women, limit ed access to skills development opportunities, and disincentives from the
design of tax policies all contribute to reenforcing gender discrimination.
Most PES state that their day to day activities promote gender mainstreamin g through
policies to promote women’s employability, including in non-traditional sectors, fostering
work life balance, and supporting women in vulnerable situations .
PES are in a particularly good position to adopt strategies furthering seve ral objectives of
the EU Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025, namely eliminating violence and stereotypes,
thriving in a g ender-neutral economy, and adopting gender mainstreaming. An
intersectional perspective in EU policies is consequently of especia l relevance to PES.
Notwithstanding their perspectives on support for gender equality th rough their ongoing
service delivery, with 60% considering this in their strategic planning, less than half (40%)
of PES, or their supervising authorities, have a distinct gender equality strategy . This i s
possibly reflected in the extent to which the detail of PES delivery reflects gender equality.
Whilst 76% of PES regularly collect data disaggregated by gender and almost all have a
stated position of ensuring gender equality in their policies an d procedures very few PES
currently have specific gender-sensitive p rocedures in regard to customer contact, and
very few ever deliver gender awareness courses.