Commentary. The European Union must not waste the €750 billion on thousands of individual projects but rather used to promote structural change towards sustainable development and to remove social, territorial and gender inequalities.

Gender equality isn’t just about democracy, it’s about prosperity

The European Commission and the European Council have set aside €750 billion to relaunch the economy affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Italy will receive €209 billion: more than a quarter of the Next Generation EU plan. We are, therefore, the number one beneficiary state in terms of the amount of funds disbursed by the Union.

For this reason, our country has a historic opportunity before it, which must be seized: these resources should not be dispersed in a thousand small streams in search of immediate consensus, but should be used to promote structural change towards sustainable development and to remove social, territorial and gender inequalities.

In Italy, gender inequality has taken on a pathological dimension over the years, as certified by the data from the second quarter of 2020 on women’s employment: only 48% of women are in employment, against 60% in France or 70% in the United Kingdom. The situation in the South is particularly critical: 32% female employment, with a negative low of 29% in Sicily.

COVID is one reason for this situation of latent development. Women have paid a higher price during the pandemic crisis in terms of employment, quality of life and workload—both in the difficult period of the lockdown, but also in the complex phase of the restart, understood as the coexistence with the virus during these weeks.

In light of this important situation, we, as an Intergroup of the Women’s Chamber, which brings together more than 70 female members from different political groups, have written down a series of proposals in a document.

The objective is clear: that the projects – which will be presented by the government, using European resources—should go in the direction of building gender equality, i.e. promote the employment of women and improve the quality of life of women.

This document has been sent to all group leaders of the Chamber of Deputies, urging that gender equality should emerge as a priority in the parliamentary acts concerning the Recovery Fund.

The text contains 16 proposals presented so that the Recovery would provide what women need.

Among these, I would like to mention:

  • ensuring an equal presence of women’s expertise in the control and management bodies of EU funds, whenever these materialize;
  • promoting women’s employment and entrepreneurship through a national plan, with the creation of a special fund for companies managed by women;
  • assessing the gender impact for all funds spent;
  • establishing the obligation of an equitable distribution of resources for all companies that receive subsidies from the state, as a condition for the disbursement of funds;
  • reducing the digital divide that still penalizes women today;
  • counteracting the gender gap in wages and careers;
  • establishing the obligation to compile the company budget with a view to gender, for all companies that receive state funding and as a condition for obtaining it;
  • lengthening paternity leave to three months and making it mandatory.

These are concrete proposals in line with the #HalfOfHit campaign promoted by MEP Alexandra Geese, who is working for this initiative in Brussels together with many other female MEPs.

It must be clear that we are gambling with the present and the future of Europe. And without women, this present and this future cannot be built. Also, and most crucially, in Italy.

As Linda Laura Sabbadini has highlighted, if gender equality grows, the national GDP will grow as well.

The Bank of Italy also tells us: with the achievement of 60% female employment, the GDP would grow by 7 percentage points. It is a democratic question, of course, but also an economic question. Let’s not miss the opportunity!

Laura Boldrini is a member of parliament from the Democratic Party and Intergroup Coordinator of the Chamber for Women, Rights and Equal Opportunities.

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