Europe: Effort to Close Gender Gap ‘Stalled,'IMF Economist Says

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By Andrea Barbara Schuessler

May 4—“Reexamining the factors driving women's labor force participation is particularly important [now] because in many European countries the process of closing the gender gap has stalled despite greater gender equality in human capital investment, declining birth rates, changing social norms, and equal legal access to employment opportunities,” according to the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW) in Berlin.

Even though the labor market situation has improved for women, there are still fewer European women working than men, and those working are often in part-time positions. Initiatives to increase the representation of women on executive boards are having more success, in part because of quotas mandating certain levels of female participation.

More women in senior management positions would have a positive effect on recruiting female employees for entry-level positions and provide role models for younger women, Joana Pereira, an economist with the International Monetary Fund's European Department told Bloomberg BNA May 2.

Another benefit, Europe's female gender quotas, introduced for the first time in Norway in 2013, slightly increase the productivity of companies, Pereira said when presenting her survey on at the DIW.


The European Commission proposes a 40-percent women's quota for nonexecutive board member positions in publicly listed companies by 2020.

“Now the member states need to agree in the Council and with the European Parliament on the proposed legislation, so that it can be included in the collection of the relevant EU legislation,” Katrin Abele, press officer with the European Commission's office in Berlin, told Bloomberg BNA in an e-mail May 2.

Since Jan. 1, 2016, 108 German companies have had to meet a mandatory 30-percent women's quota for filling vacant supervisory board positions under legislation Germany's parliament approved in 2015.

German companies both listed on the stock exchange and partially managed by employees are also affected by the new legislation, which introduced a voluntary women's quota for approximately 3,500 companies.

Seeking a ‘Level Playing Field'

Government policies such as improving tax prospects for second earners and providing better child care facilities would be crucial for Germany to create more opportunities for women to take up full-time employment, Pereira said.

To address Germany's aging population as well as the gender and pension pay gap, a “level playing field” for women would have to be established, also with the support of government policies, Pereira said.

To achieve this, care work at home would have to be shared equally between parents to create more opportunities for women to work full-time, Katharina Wrohlich, deputy head of the Department of Public Economics at DIW Berlin, said in her comments on the survey May 2.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Barbara Schuessler in Berlin at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at

For More Information

More information on the European Commission's proposal and country specific fact sheets are available here.

For more information on European Union HR law and regulation, see the European Union primer.

For more information on German HR law and regulation, see the Germany primer.