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Minister: housewives threaten EU economy

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Minister: housewives threaten EU economy
11:16 CET+01:00
The housewife is becoming a threat to European growth, according to Birgitta Ohlsson, Sweden's EU Minister.

Speaking Monday at a seminar for women in business organised by Swedish business publication Veckans Affärer, Ohlsson discussed the difficulties European women face today in combining children and their career.

Although the majority of all new graduates and almost half of all new PhDs in the EU are women, these numbers are not reflected in the job market.

Instead, women are often forced to stay at home because of an undeveloped childcare and geriatric care system. Also problematic are higher taxes for families with two working adults.

Faced with these difficulties, many women choose not to have children, which Ohlsson sees as totally unacceptable.

“This will make Europe a Jurassic Park filled with old men,” she said.

Nativity figures are dropping in parts of Europe due to the difficulty of combining work with having children.

In order to combat this drop, the EU is considering legislation on maternity leave. However, these reforms have been met with anger from women's groups worried that it will lead to more women staying at home.

According to Ohlsson, changing the rules for parental leave is more important for the EU than making sure that there is gender equity in Europe's boardrooms.

She added that the difficulties for women to combine children and career is also detrimental to Europe.

With more women encouraged to work, the European GDP could increase by as much as 27 percent, she said.

Moreover, she said it is impossible for things to continue as they are today.

“Having your own money is a source of both power and independence for women”, Ohlsson said.

New figures from the Swedish Public Employment Service, (Arbetsförmedlingen) show that 229,000 more men than women are in gainful employment today.

“The gap hasn't been this wide for the last 20 years," Lena Liljebäck, acting head of jobs agency told LO Tidningen, the publication of the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO).

During the financial crisis more men than women lost their jobs in Sweden. But today the industries traditionally dominated by men are growing faster, resulting in more new job opportunities created for men than women.

According to LO Tidningen, part of the explanation for the higher unemployment figures for women in Sweden is likely due to an increase in the number of women born outside the country, a group which traditionally has had a higher jobless rate.

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