EIGE – European Institute for Gender Equality
Direct Link to Full 128-Page 2016 Report: http://eige.europa.eu/sites/default/files/documents/ti_pubpdf_mh0416244enn_pdfweb_20161208181320.pdf
Poverty is a complex and multidimensional phenomenon that cannot be explained in economic terms only. In a broader sense, it extends to the deprivation of opportunities for civil, social and political participation and social mobility (Council of the European Union, 2007). The Fourth United Nations World Conference on Women in 1995 marked an important step in addressing the gender dimension of poverty. ‘Women and Poverty’ was identified as the first area of concern of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA). The strategic objectives in this area are based on the premise that women continue to be more severely affected by poverty than men due to persisting structural and cultural causes putting women at a disadvantage (e.g. social protection systems, labour market policy and practices, etc.).
In 2007, under the Portuguese Presidency of the EU, the Council agreed on three indicators, including two sub-indicators, to measure progress in this area (Council of the European Union, 2007). The indicators measure income poverty, making use of a calculation of risk of poverty by age, sex and household structure and economic inactivity rates.
The EU commitment to tackle poverty is spelled out in the Europe 2020 strategy, which aims at delivering smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Through job creation and poverty reduction Europe 2020 also sets the headline target of lifting at least 20 million people out of poverty and social exclusion by 2020. In the Europe 2020 framework, the concept of being at risk of poverty or social exclusion (AROPE) covers not only income poverty (risk of poverty) but also non-income poverty (severe material deprivation) and labour market-related poverty (low work intensity) in order to better capture the complex nature of poverty and social exclusion.
The European Union (EU) faces challenges in achieving the target of lifting at least 20 million people out of the risk of poverty or social exclusion by 2020. Almost one in four people in the EU lives at risk of poverty or social exclusion, and over half are women. While severe material deprivation is not very common in the EU-28, 10 % of households struggle in terms of feeding their families, paying utility bills or keeping homes adequately warm. Significant numbers of Europeans do not have sufficient savings to face unexpected financial expenses (40 % of women and 36 % of men) or cannot afford a holiday away from home at least once a year (37 % of women and 35 % of men). The number of people living in poverty has increased by an additional 4 million over the last 5 years. The deterioration of the situation has been attributed largely to the economic crisis and the recession that has since followed.
A gender perspective is key to understanding poverty. Women across the EU are at a higher risk of poverty, primarily due to gender inequalities in the labour market experienced during the life course. The average employment rate of women is systematically below the men’s employment rate. Women are nearly four times more likely to work on a part-time basis than men (32 % against 8 %), and the inactivity rate of working-age women (20-64 years) is almost twice that of men (30 % against 17 %). A fifth of women living in poverty are not active in the labour market due to caring and domestic responsibilities. Employment, however, is not always a path out of poverty. This is confirmed by the large number of working people receiving income that falls below the poverty line (9 % of women and 10 % of men) or living in poverty despite the fact that they are employed (25 % of women and 36 % of men).
The limited economic independence of women creates a risk of poverty for men and for the whole family. Despite large national disparities in unemployment rates, in most countries men are more likely to be in poverty when unemployed than women. This shows that men are more likely to be the main or sole ‘breadwinner’ in the household or to have a partner who is low paid and unable to lift the family out of poverty in times of hardship. Furthermore, in the EU, the at-risk-of-poverty rate of couples with children is 15 %, but without the income of the father 69 % of couples with children would face poverty. The impact of a mother losing her job on poverty in the household is much smaller (34 %). Only 55 % of women with three or more children are working compared with 83 % of men. Even more, only 44 % of women with three or more children and living with a partner earned less than the national poverty threshold. Women are more likely to fall into poverty if the income contribution from the other earner would cease in the event of family dissolution, widowhood or the partner becoming unemployed. The more children couples have, the higher the woman’s dependence on the income of the father and/ or social transfers.
A life-course perspective highlights the factors that impact on specific groups of women and men at different periods over their lives. In the EU, the highest rate of poverty is found among young people, especially when they are no longer part of their parents’ household. A large share of young people are economically inactive due to engagement in education, but once they start searching for a job, they are more likely to meet difficulties in finding a job and, if employed, to face in-work poverty, especially women. Young people have been particularly affected by the economic crisis, with the youngest age groups the most exposed to poverty and social exclusion across all age groups in 2014.
Извор: WUNRN – 16.12.2016