Two recent reports from the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) show that across Europe women in general are at a higher risk of poverty. Over the course of their lives they receive a lower income than men, are more likely to work in low paid and insecure jobs or take career breaks due to caring responsibilities at home. As a result, they are exposed to a higher risk of poverty or social exclusion, especially when they are the sole earners.
While a higher proportion of both men and women are living on the edge of poverty and social exclusion today compared to 2010, factors like gender, age, ethnicity, migrant background, disability or type of household can affect a person’s vulnerability to poverty and social exclusion.
A heavy dependence on a father’s income increases the risk of poverty and insecurity, especially when events such as job loss, family break-up, serious illness or even death, occur. The study shows that if a father were to lose his job, 70 per cent of couples with children would fall into poverty.
EIGE’s Director, Virginija Langbakk, says protecting women against poverty helps to protect the whole family.
“We need to ensure better career options for women, fair wages and better social systems, such as pension schemes that consider the different needs and challenges women and men face.”
While employment is crucial in safeguarding people against poverty, women with children have a relatively low employment rate. Only half (55 per cent) of women with three or more children have a job. With the arrival of each additional child, a woman’s economic independence shrinks. The need to care for children, parents or sick and disabled relatives keeps many women out of paid work and this has life-long consequences for their career, financial situation and ultimately on pensions.
Lone mothers — being women and being sole earners — face a double challenge. Almost half of all lone parents are poor and women are particularly affected as they make up 85 per cent of all one-parent families in the EU. Due to difficulties reconciling work and family life, they face added constraints on their ability to find a good job. Women are more likely to take up lower paid and less secure forms of work, such as involuntary part-time jobs and jobs with temporary contracts.
And while amongst young people, women and men face a very similar risk of poverty, older women (+75 years) are at much higher risk than older men. Women are clearly paying the price of gender inequalities at an older age.
You can read EIGE’s report here.
You can read EIGE’s factsheet on poverty, gender, and lone parents here.