The European Union gender employment gap generates economic losses of approximately €370 billion per year.


EDC News: Work-Life Balance for Parents and Carers

Equality has been a fundamental human right since the establishment of the EU (Treaty 92/C 191/01) but infringements to this right are still being made. For instance, the EU average, in 2015, yielded in favour for men a gender employment gap of 11%, a gender pay gap of 28%, and a gender pension gap of 40%, which, in turn, could lead to higher risk of poverty and social exclusion for women.

As women are more likely to fulfil the role of a carer these gender gaps become more prominent in the parent/carer social group.  For instance, the employment rate is 9% less for women with a child under 6 years old than those without young children and/or other carer responsibilities. The main contributing factor for this situation are the policies relating to the unbalanced gender and parental leave allocations,  inadequate incentives for men to take on a carer role, inflexible working arrangements, lack of formal care services and economic disincentives (e.g. lack of financial compensation for carer leave).

In order to improve the conditions for working parents and carers, and reduce the gender employment gap the European Commission, initially, introduced a proposal (2008) to encourage improvements in health and safety at work for pregnant workers.  The objective of this proposal was to revise the stipulations outlined in the Directive 92/85/EEC.  The withdrawal of this proposal, in 2015, lead to the European Commission proposing the 2017 Work-Life balance initiative. The new initiative introduces and improves the existing rights for both women and men by addressing the equal treatment and opportunities in the today’s labour market, promoting non-discrimination and fostering gender equality. In addition, it focuses on addressing women's under-representation in employment and support their career progression through improved conditions to reconcile their working and private duties. Key factors in the initiative are:

By encompasses:

  • The introduction of paternity leave (regulated by Directive 92/85/EEC) which gives fathers a minimum of 10 days after the birth of their child
  • Each parent has the right to 4 months of parental leave, of which, 2 are non-transferable between the parents; the compensation level for this leave is set by the individual Member State
  • Introduction of carer’s leave giving  5 days per year per person for a worker who takes care of a relative
  • Extending flexible working arrangements, for parents with children under 8 years old (i.e. reduce working hours, providing flexible working hours and flexibility in the place of work) 

In order to achieve these common goals among the Member States the initiative includes some non-legislative measures, such as:

  • Protection against discrimination and dismissal for parents and carers
  • Encouraging balanced use of family-related leaves and flexible working arrangements between genders
  • The improvement of the provision of formal care service by better use of European funds
  • The removal of economic disincentives for second earners


Achieving equality results in positive outcomes not only for individuals but, also, for society as a whole, e.g. boosting the economy due to the increased labour supply, having a larger talent pool for businesses due to the increased participation of  women in the labour market, in addition, parents and carers will no longer have to make a choice between their family lives and their professional career.


For more information:

  • Factsheet: A new start to support work-life balance for parents and carers, European Commission.
  • An initiative to support work-life balance for working parents and carers (COM 2017/252 final), EUR-Lex
  • Work-life balance for parents and carers and repealing Council (Directive 2010/18/EU)
  • Delivering on the European Pillar of Social Rights – Commission adopts first concrete initiatives, European Commission – Press release
  • Communication Establishing a European Pillar of Social Rights (COM 2017/250 final), EUR-Lex
  • Consultation document, First phase consultation of Social Partners under Article 154 TFEU on a possible revision of the Written Statement Directive (Directive 91/533/EEC) in the framework of the European Pillar of Social Rights (C 2017/2611 final), European Commission
  • Consultation Document of 26.4.2017 First phase consultation of Social Partners under Article 154 TFEU on a possible action addressing the challenges of access to social protection for people in all forms of employment in the framework of the European Pillar of Social Rights

(C 2017/2610 final), European Commission

  • Interpretative Communication on Directive 2003/88/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning certain aspects of the organization of working time (2017/C 165/01), EUR-Lex
  • Commission staff working document, Taking stock of the 2013 Recommendation on "Investing in children: breaking the cycle of disadvantage" (SWD 2017/258 final), European Commission
  •  Commission staff working document on The implementation of the 2008 Commission Recommendation on the active inclusion of people excluded from the labour market (SWD 2017/257 final), European Commission
  • Council recommendation of 31 March 1992 on Child care (92/241/EEC), EUR-Lex.
  • The gender gap in pensions in the EU, European Institute for Gender Equality
  • Parental Leave Directive: Towards a revision? (at a glance 4 may 2016), European parliament
  • Framework agreement on parental leave (14 December 1995)
  • COUNCIL of 3 June 1996 on the framework agreement on parental leave concluded by UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC (DIRECTIVE 96/34/EC)
  • Briefing EU Legislation in Progress:  A new directive on work life balance (2 April 2019 Third edition The ‘EU Legislation in Progress’ briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure)
  • Council's position 25 June 2018, Proposal for a DIRECTIVE OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL on work-life balance for parents and carers and repealing Council Directive 2010/18/EU - General approach




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