The Malta Independent 20 August 2019, Tuesday

Gender roles, stereotyping 'remain hindrance to Maltese women’s presence in labour market'

Joanna Demarco Tuesday, 11 July 2017, 14:24 Last update: about 3 years ago

Gender roles and stereotyping are still causing women to remain outside the labourmarket and hindering them from gaining financial independence, despite the increase in number of women in the workforce over the past few years, according to Commissioner for Equality Renee Laiviera.

AEurostat EU Labour Force Survey published last week shows Malta ranking second amongst European Union member states for the highest number of economically inactive women, with 44.5 per cent of women being inactive in the workforce. ‘Economically inactive people’ include those who are looking after children or incapacitated adults, those in education or training, retired or those suffering from illness or disability.

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When asked what factors in Malta contribute to this statistics, Laivierasaid, “women and men behave differently in the labour market, often following traditional gendered norms and expectations which are socially constructed and which can change over time and place.”

“Gender roles and stereotyping are still hampering women from achieving financial independence and men from being more involved in caring for the family. Therefore, family and care responsibilities are still not equally shared and the task of looking after dependent family members is largely borne by women,” she continued.

According to Laiviera, the most common factor for inactivity is “a perception that either the family, or the career, should take priority (but not both), with the resulting conscious choice to give up work and dedicate maximum time and effort to the family.”

“Moreover, women are often not aware that the choice to leave the labour market will affect their lifestyle and options not only when they find themselves in vulnerable situations but also with regard to their eligibility to a pension in their own right,” she added.

Despite this culture, Laiviera notes that Malta “registered a significant increase in the employment rate of women, reaching 53.0% in the first quarter of 2017, when compared to 45.8% that was registered in the same period of 2013.” This increase, according to the Commissioner,is a result which has been reaped by initiatives which were introduced in the labour market, such as the free childcare facilities and the maternity leave trust.

However, she believes that “an inactivity rate in the labour market that is much higher for women in Malta, deems it highly pertinent to continue addressing the situation.”

Asked whether the statistic comes at a surprise since the number of working women has increased the past few years, the Commissioner said, “in spite of a significant increase in the number of working women, these statistics also show that measures and efforts to encourage more women to enter or to remain in the labour market are still very much needed.”

“Such initiatives include measures that promote equal opportunities at the workplace and in the family, such as the availability of family-friendly measures and other care services that facilitate the reconciliation of work and family life,” she concluded. 

 

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