Welfare changes reported to EU

The Swedish Confederation for Professional Employees (TCO) plans to report the government to the EU for alleged discrimination against women.

According to TCO, which comprises 17 affiliated trade unions and a total of 1.3 million members, the government’s proposed unemployment insurance reforms will hit women hardest and therefore constitute a breach of the EU’s Gender Equal Treatment Directive.

In today’s Dagens Nyheter the chairman of TCO, Sture Nordh, said his organisation would report Sweden to the European Commission if the government goes ahead with its proposal.

Under the new proposal applicants for unemployment insurance must have worked at least 80 hours per month before becoming unemployed to be considered eligible. Previously a 70 hour working week was enough to qualify for unemployment benefits.

TCO contends that women are overrepresented among those who will not meet the new criteria, rendering the proposal an instance of indirect discrimination.

“Since women are generally absent more often because of they themselves are sick or taking care of a sick child, many women employed on a half-time basis will not meet the new criteria,” wrote Sture Nordh.

The government on the other hand is of the opinion that unemployment benefit reforms will encourage part time workers to work more hours, thereby strengthening their position on the labour market.

“I have not had much of a chance to look into it yet,” Staffan Ingmanson, a lecturer in European law and labour law at Umeå University, told The Local.

“But when I read the article my reaction was that if an 80 hour working week represents indirect discrimination then the old system with a 70 hour week probably does too.”