Even though in the EU more women are working than ever, we have a long road ahead of us before the EU's labour market becomes fully equal.
The fact that the conditions of the labour market both favour and value men more than women is not news, and the pay gap is still a major problem, even in Sweden. In a study from 2018, the Swedish Women’s lobby group, Svensk Kvinnolobby, showed that women earn twelve percent less than men. Translated into working time, that means women work for free the last 58 minutes during an eight-hour working day.
Although more women than ever are getting educated, and the labour markets of the EU´s Member States have an increasing dominance of well-qualified women, about 40 percent of the EU´s women of working age remain outside the labour market. This is partly because old expectations still remain; where women are expected to take the main responsibility for the home and children. This is not acceptable for a modern society. Europe cannot afford to have the world’s most well-educated housewives.
Therefore, efforts must be put into practice to make women more willing to step into the labour market. Incentives must be created in order for parents to choose a more equally distributed amount of days for parental leave. Women choosing to stay home for most of the parental leave will suffer from negative consequences for their salaries, career opportunities and pensions. Childcare must also be expanded, subsidised and opened up for more flexible working hours in order to suit the modern family.
Women should not have to choose between a career and a family, they should have access to both. In addition, the joint taxation for married couples that still remains in some of the member states must be abolished. When Sweden abolished joint taxation in the 1970s and began taxing at an individual level instead, we witnessed how married women’s participation in the labour market increased over a decade from 50 percent to 80 percent.