NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 6, 2006

For all the myths of equality that Europe tells itself, it is, by and large, a woeful place for working women, says Rana Foroohar of Newsweek.

Europe has consistently been unable to tap the highest potential of its female workers, resulting in a system where most women do some kind of work outside the home, but relatively few enjoy genuine upward mobility, says Foroohar:

  • In the United Kingdom, only 33 percent of women hold high-level management positions, followed by Sweden -- supposedly the very model of global gender equality -- with 29 percent, Germany with 27 percent and Italy with 18 percent.
  • Women work in disproportionately large numbers as teachers, nurses or health-care aides, and female part-time workers make 40 percent less per hour than men.
  • Additionally, the tax structure makes it advantageous for families if the mother doesn't work.

Moreover, child care is a big problem, says Foroohar:

  • In Germany, there's an extreme shortage of child care, and much of it is available only for the morning and early afternoon.
  • In the Nordic countries, well-developed state day-care centers offer longer hours, but there's a social pressure on mothers in places like Denmark or Sweden not to use more than six hours of care a day.
  • France counts among the best countries for working mothers because any child over 3 years old is guaranteed state-funded day care; roughly 80 percent of French women who wish to work can do so, but they still only hold about 30 percent of managerial positions.

However, positives signs are emerging; France recently passed a law mandating pay equity and the European Union has set aside funds for the creation of a gender-equality institute whose goal is to create concrete solutions to the gender gap, says Foroohar.

Source: Rana Foroohar, "Forget all the talk of equal opportunity. European women can have a job -- but not a career," Newsweek International, February 27, 2006.


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