The European Commission last week issued the Gender Equality strategy 2020-2025 under the stewardship of Maltese Commissioner Helena Dalli. The strategy addresses important issues dealing both with social justice as well as economic potential. That in 2020, 44% of Europeans think that the most important role of a woman is to take care of her home and family, and 43% think the most important role of a man is to earn money does not sufficiently reflect the aspirations of a modern society.
MBB President Simon De Cesare commented that, “The Malta Business Bureau believes in gender equality as a priority to address both nationally and at a European level. This, together with related issues such as the gender-pay gap, the pension gap, and harassment at the place of work need horizontal solutions at different levels and sections of society.”
Mr De Cesare added, “gender equality can be achieved if every person has access to the same opportunities and is treated fairly in different stages of their lives, including to make career choices free of stereotypical pressures, the share of time dedicated to family care and household work, and opportunity for career progression.”
While these are the core roots of the problem, the MBB said that it is cautious on specific actions earmarked by the Commission strategy. With regards to the implementation of the Work-life Balance Directive, while supporting a better share of caring responsibilities between working parents, MBB believes that EU member states should make use of a policy mix according to their respective national requirements without undue pressure of introducing excessive financial burden on the economy impacting productivity and the competitiveness of business.
For instance, to incentivize a higher participation of women in the labour market Malta had successfully adopted other measures such as the ‘Free Childcare Scheme’, while other countries have not. This showed that a common challenge can be addressed through different means.
In addition, the MBB stated that it looks forward to examine the upcoming Commission proposal on binding measures on pay transparency and the impact this would have on companies, particularly small and medium enterprises. It encouraged for more dialogue with social partners based on evidence emerging from impact assessments before rushing to introducing new binding measures.
Furthermore, on reviving the Directive on improving the gender balance on corporate boards, the MBB said that it believes that gender equality in leadership positions should continue to be driven by voluntary actions based on investing in talent and promoting fairness at the workplace. More investment in the sharing of best practices would also be a useful way for companies to showcase how more inclusion and diversity brings about more new ideas and innovative approaches.