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May 2016

LRD research for ETUC on women in unions/labour market

The Labour Research Department has this year been asked to undertake the annual 8th March survey for the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) on the position of women in unions and more broadly in the labour market.

The final report, which was written with the ETUCís gender equality adviser Cinzia Sechi, was based on replies from 53 national union confederations, accounting for more than 95% of the total members of the 90 confederations affiliated to the ETUC. It found that almost all of those responding were able to provide figures for the total number of members and the total number of women members, and that the average proportion of women members in the confederations replying to the 2016 survey was 43.4%. This is around four percentage points lower than the proportion of women among employees in the countries covered.

Most confederations reported an increase in the proportion of women in membership, with four times more confederations saying that the female proportion had gone up since 2015 than that it had gone down. And, if the comparison is limited to the 23 confederations replying every year since 2008, a clear upward trend is evident, with the average proportion of women going up from 44.5% of union members in 2008 to 46.9% in 2016.

The TUC is the confederation with the largest number of women members.

Looking at union leaders, 10 of the 53 confederations have a woman as the key leader. However, as two confederations have a joint leadership, where the president and general secretary share the top spots, there are 55 leadership positions, of which 10 (18.2%) are held by women.

The average percentage of women on decision-making bodies between confederation congresses is 29.7%.

The survey also looked at gender occupational segregation, where women and concentrated in particular sectors and industries, like care, catering retail and health (horizontal segregation), and overrepresented in lower graded jobs (vertical segregation).

It found that national confederations were largely agreed on the main causes of this segregation. They saw horizontal occupational segregation as being primarily caused by gender stereotypes, which are deeply embedded in society and difficult to shift. They thought the key reason for vertical occupation segregation, on the other hand, was the way that society deals with childcare. Although these were not the only causes identified by national confederations, they predominated.

Most confederations have taken action to tackle gender occupational segregation, often working with other groups, in particular womenís organisations. They have achieved some successes through collective bargaining, legislation, campaigns and training, although there is a recognition that dealing with gender occupational segregation is a long-term task.

National confederations have clear demands on national policy makers. They want better childcare, action on stereotypes, better parental leave, quotas for women and action on womenís pay.

They also believe that the EU has a role to play in this area particularly through getting employers to adopt equality plans and strengthening the involvement of unions and employers.

Download the full report from: https://www.etuc.org/sites/www.etuc.org/files/circular/files/etuc_8th_march_survey_2016_final_en.pdf


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