Ministers’ Deputies
CM Documents

CM/AS(2010)Rec1911 final 14 December 2010
____________________

“Women and the economic and financial crisis” –
Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1911 (2010)

(Reply adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 8 December 2010 at the 1101st meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)
____________________

1. The Committee of Ministers notes with interest Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1911 (2010) on “Women and the economic and financial crisis” which highlights the importance of bridging the gap between de jure and de facto gender equality, in particular concerning leadership and decision-making roles in the current economic and financial crisis. It has brought the recommendation to the attention of their governments and has also communicated it to the European Committee for Social Cohesion (CDCS), the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR), the Governmental Committee of the European Social Charter and to the Steering Committee for Equality between Women and Men (CDEG), for information and possible comments.

2. The Committee of Ministers agrees with the Assembly that previous gains made towards gender equality should not be lost due to the economic and financial crisis. It also shares the view that gender balance in leadership and decision-making positions should be promoted by member states. The Committee of Ministers recalls its opinion concerning the drafting of a new protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, according to which there are Council of Europe instruments that already offer a legal framework for combating all forms of discrimination against women and propose standards and mechanisms for attaining equality between women and men. This includes the general ban on discrimination ensuing from Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights. Furthermore, pursuant to its Article E, the Revised European Social Charter recognises the enjoyment of rights set forth in the treaty “without discrimination based on sex” and Article 20 of the Revised Charter provides for the right to equal opportunities and equal treatment in matters of employment and occupation.

3. In its Declaration entitled "Making gender equality a reality", adopted on 12 May 2009 on the occasion of the 119th Ministerial Session, the Committee of Ministers urged member states to commit themselves fully to bridging the gap between equality in fact and in law. In this text, it clearly identified the policy measures to be taken to attain that objective and invited the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to monitor and evaluate progress in the implementation of gender equality policies every three years.

4. The Committee of Ministers further notes that the Assembly’s recommendation is in line with the priorities of the Resolution “Bridging the gap between de jure and de factor equality to achieve real gender equality” and the Action Plan “Taking up the challenge of the achievement of de jure and de factor gender equality” which were adopted by the 7th Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Equality between Women and Men (Baku, 24-25 May 2010). The resolution requests member states to “eliminate in national legislation all discriminatory provisions that run counter to equality between women and men and set-up the necessary mechanisms to implement and monitor the implementation of this legislation, in particular through the registration of complaints whenever it is violated”, “to sign and ratify all relevant international legal instruments concerning equality between women and men, such as Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention of Human Rights” and also to “encourage the economic independence of women and the empowerment of women by guaranteeing that equality is respected in the labour market and in

economic life”. Priority I of the action plan deals with gender mainstreaming and positive action and priority III upholds “Equal participation of women and men in political, public and economic life, including in
decision-making”. On 29 September 2010, the Committee of Ministers decided that the aforementioned resolution and action plan would be taken into account in the future work of the Council of Europe in the area of gender equality.

5. Finally, the Committee of Ministers would like to draw the Assembly’s attention to the replies given to Recommendation 1899 (2010) on “Increasing women’s representation in politics through the electoral system”, Recommendation 1907 (2010) on “The wage gap between women and men” and Recommendation 1909 (2010) on “Involving women in the prevention and the solution of unsolved conflicts in Europe”. Each of these replies reaffirms the Committee of Ministers’ commitment to ensuring de facto gender equality in Council of Europe member states.

Appendix 1 to the reply

Comments by the European Committee for Social Cohesion (CDCS)

1. The CDCS welcomes Recommendation 1911 (2010) and highlights the pioneering role of the Council of Europe in ensuring equality de jure and de facto between women and men, which is still not the reality in several member states. It recalls the work of its Committee of Experts on Social Security (CS-SS), as stated in its opinion on Recommendation 1910 (2010) on “The impact of the global economic crisis on migration in Europe”.

2. The CDCS stresses that women and men entered the recession on an unequal footing and that the narrowing of the gender employment gap combined with the increase in lone mother households means that women’s wages are more important than ever to the family budget. It underlines the need of a fair and flexible, family-friendly labour market to boost economic growth and to draw on all available talents, including women, to recover from the global recession. Equality already in place in the labour market should not be lost due to the financial and economic crisis.

3. The CDCS is sympathetic with the idea of an additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights which would focus on equality de facto, but thinks that the use of positive action measures, in combination with the merit principle, should be sufficient without invoking the need for positive discrimination.

4. The CDCS thinks that the introduction of strict quotas is potentially against the merit principle and that the use of positive action interventions open to political parties should allow them to tackle underrepresentation of women. Parties should decide for themselves how best to use the opportunities made available to them by the legislation. Various countries have various systems, some of them have one or other quotas de jure or de facto. Concerning women in leadership and decision-making positions, the CDCS thinks that it is important to consider ways to improve representation, for instance by improving equality on company boards, but rigid quotas seems not to be an option. 

Appendix 2 to the reply

Comments by the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR)

1. The Committee of Ministers has asked the European Committee for Social Rights (ESCR) to forward any comments it might have on Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1911 (2010). In reply to this request, the ESCR wishes to make the following observations:

2. The Charter is unique in Europe, not only in terms of the rights guaranteed, but also because of the double dimension of its supervisory mechanism: an annual procedure based on national reports on the one hand and a collective complaints procedure allowing civil society organisations to lodge complaints on the other. The ECSR, the regulatory body of the Charter made up of fifteen independent and impartial experts, rules on the conformity of national law and practice under both these procedures.

3. Pursuant to its Article E, the Revised Charter recognises the enjoyment of rights set forth in the treaty “without discrimination based on sex”. The existence of this provision as a distinct article attests to the high importance given by the states to the principle of non-discrimination in the realisation of fundamental rights guaranteed by the Charter.

4. Regarding the protection of specific rights in respect of women, Article 20 of the Revised Charter provides for the right to equal opportunities and equal treatment in matters of employment and occupation. Moreover, Article 4§3 of the Charter recognises the right of women and men workers to equal pay for work of equal value. The ESCR refers in this regard to its comments on Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1907 (2010) on “The wage gap between women and men”.

5. Furthermore, the Charter guarantees the right to equality of opportunity and treatment for women and men workers with family responsibilities and between such workers and other workers (Article 27). In addition, Article 26 of the Charter guarantees to all workers the right to protection of their dignity at work and requests states to adopt measures to prevent and properly sanction sexual harassment.

6. The ESCR welcomes the initiative taken by the Parliamentary Assembly with the adoption of Recommendation 1911 (2010) and reaffirms its commitment to ensuring an effective equality between women and men. It underlines the necessity of closing the gap between de iure and de facto equality, especially in the wake of the economic and financial crisis which endanger the modest gains achieved by women in the past.

7. In its case law, the ESCR has stressed that compliance with the principle of equal treatment requires taking positive account of relevant differences as well as taking adequate steps to guarantee genuinely equal opportunities to all. Affirmative measures are needed to eliminate inequalities originating from the social consequences of historic discrimination and from existing stereotypes. They should not be considered as permitted exceptions from equal treatment, as acts of “positive discrimination”. Such an approach would in effect perpetuate the “single standard” perception of equality where equality has to be achieved by women along standards adjusted to male realities.

8. Unequal division of family and domestic responsibilities is a major cause, not only of the discrimination against women on the labour market in the context of the economic and financial crisis, but also of their limited social and political participation. In this regard, the ESCR refers to Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1800 (2007) on “The feminisation of poverty” and, in particular, to the scope of the Article 30 of the Revised Charter (the right to protection against poverty and social exclusion).

9. The ESCR shares the novel view expressed in the recommendation about the role of women in the creation of a more stable and safe economic and financial environment. It agrees with the high importance of ensuring gender balance in political leadership and in decision-making positions, including in businesses. It invites states to take measures in order to ensure that workers with family responsibilities are not discriminated against due to these responsibilities (Article 27). States should encourage initiatives aimed at conciliating family life and work for both women and men workers in order to achieve real equality among them.

10. In conclusion, the ESCR invites States Parties of the Charter which have not yet accepted Articles 4§3, 20, 26, 27 and 30 and/or the collective complaints procedure to do so before 18 October 2011 (date of the 50th anniversary of the Charter), as this would enable the competent organisations to submit complaints with the ESCR concerning breaches of discrimination based on sex.

Appendix 3 to the reply

Comments by the Steering Committee for Equality between Women and Men (CDEG)

1. The CDEG took note of the recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly transmitted by the Committee of Ministers.

2. The CDEG welcomes these recommendations which are in line with the priorities set up by the Resolution “Bridging the gap between de jure and de facto equality to achieve real gender equality” and the Action Plan “Taking up the challenge of the achievement of de jure and de facto gender equality” adopted by the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Equality between Women and Men held in Baku, on 24 and 25 May 2010.

3. All the specific recommendations addressed to the Committee of Ministers in Recommendation 1911 (2010) on “Women and the economic and financial crisis” were already examined by the CDEG. It refers in particular to the replies given to Recommendation 1899 (2010) on “Increasing women’s representation in politics through the electoral system” and Recommendation 1907 (2010) on “The wage gap between women and men”. The CDEG will continue its action in favour of the achievement of de facto equality in its member states as well as within the Council of Europe through the implementation of the Action Plan “Taking up the challenge of the achievement of de jure and de facto gender equality”, priority I of which deals with gender mainstreaming and positive action, and of the Resolution “Bridging the gap between de jure and de facto equality to achieve real gender equality”. The resolution requests, in particular, member states to “eliminate in national legislation all discriminatory provisions that run counter to equality between women and men and
set-up the necessary mechanisms to implement and monitor the implementation of this legislation, in particular through the registration of complaints whenever it is violated”, “to sign and ratify all relevant international legal instruments concerning equality between women and men, such as Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention of Human Rights” and also to “encourage the economic independence of women and the empowerment of women by guaranteeing that equality is respected in the labour market and in economic life”.

4. Regarding the fact that economic independence for women could be seriously compromised by the economic crisis if access to full-time, well-paid, secure and formal employment for women is not guaranteed. It should be mentioned that in some member states, not only full-time work, but also part-time work, can guarantee well paid work and can contribute to realise economic independence for women (in this case
part-time work meaning less then 32 hours per week).

5. The resolution also invites the Committee of Ministers to “take all the necessary measures for the achievement of the objectives set out in this resolution, and continues its action in all its member states, in conformity with the commitments to its Declaration “Making gender equality a reality”.”


 Top

 

  Related Documents
 
   Meetings
 
   Other documents
 
   External links