• Throughout Europe the Covid-19 pandemic has led to lower economic growth and higher unemployment. This has resulted in a surge in public debt and an increase in gender inequalities in the labour markets of many advanced countries. This situation has stimulated interest in policies that can simultaneously boost employment, increase tax revenues and reduce labour market inequalities.

    This report investigates whether a move from family-based (i.e. joint) taxation to individual taxation would increase the labour supply of the lower-earning spouse (often the woman). It has often been argued that joint taxation decreases the employment of women because it increases the tax rate for the second earner.

    This report focuses on the situation in Germany because work disincentives for women are particularly strong in the country’s tax system. However, it is likely that the conclusions will apply to other EU countries with joint income taxation, for example, France, Poland and Portugal.

    According to our simulations, moving to individual taxation would substantially increase the labour supply in Germany and therefore also spur economic growth. Moving to individual taxation and returning the higher tax revenues to married couples (to ensure that there are no additional budgetary costs) would increase the labour supply by more than a half million full-time equivalents. This reform would lead to a measurable increase in GDP, that is, an increase of up to 1.5%.

    Such a tax reform might be a way to reduce debt levels and stimulate the economy in the face of the current massive rise in public debt and decline in GDP. It could also help reverse labour market gender inequalities, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.

    However, since the simulated reforms produce results that are not distributed equally, ultimately a political value judgement is needed to decide whether the sizeable efficiency gains would outweigh the losses for those who would lose from the reform. Politically, the negative impact on more financially vulnerable groups may need to be addressed through further targeted tax reforms

    Economy Gender Equality Taxation

    Me, Myself and I: Could Tax Individualisation Create Jobs and Reduce Inequality?

    Research Papers

    06 May 2021

  • Loredana Teodorescu Roberta Metsola Gender Equality

    Net@Work Day 3 – Panel 1: Women and the Future of Europe

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    21 Apr 2021

  • As of February 2020, the percentage of female Members of the European Parliament (EP) is 39,5%. This is the highest percentage the EP has reached since its establishment in 1979. For the 2019 European Elections, eleven Member States had legally binding gender quotas regarding the make-up of electoral lists, including sanctions in case of non-compliance. Several Member States’ gender quotas are gender-neutral, aiming to avoid the under-representation of both women and men. Among them are Slovenia and Spain, who required gender-balanced electoral lists, with each gender represented by at least 40% of the candidates on the list. Three Member States required lists in parity; one of them being Luxembourg, who required a 50-50 gender balance on the list, with financial sanctions for non-compliant parties.

    To ensure that candidates from both sexes are placed in positions on an electoral list with a good chance of winning a seat, some Member States required the alternate ordering of men and women on the list (‘zipping’). This is the case of Belgium, France, and Portugal, among others. In Member States without legally binding electoral gender quotas, political parties sometimes voluntarily introduce quotas for the nomination of candidates; this is the case in The Netherlands and Sweden, for instance.

    The percentage of women in the national parliaments of EU Member States in 2020 was 28,6% overall, which is also at its highest level ever but remains inferior to the representation of women in the EP. In The Netherlands and Germany, two countries slightly above the average (33,3%[1] and 31,5%, respectively), there are several political parties that voluntarily implemented quotas for the nomination of candidates, but not all parties have such internal rules.

    The figures above and the various approaches show that countries make their own choices as to whether or not to enact legally binding quotas. Debates in Germany and The Netherlands illustrate that this is a discussion about conflicting fundamental rights, on the one hand equality of men and women, and on the other hand the freedom of political parties. In the latter, equality is considered as a matter of subsidiarity, in which this fundamental right is seen as a ‘task’ to be exerted by the most appropriate body, i.e., a political party.

    However, the question needs to be raised whether subsidiarity is the right answer.  

    Let’s dig a bit deeper into the German and Dutch debates. In 1994, the German legislation added a second sentence to Article 3 (2) of the Constitution, reading as follows: “Men and women are equal. The state shall promote the effective implementation of equal rights for women and men and shall work towards the elimination of existing disadvantages”. While equality has been declared a state responsibility, Germany has not implemented this clause into its electoral law thus far. Meanwhile, several political parties have voluntarily implemented gender quotas for their candidate lists. However, this has not yet led to gender parity and the under-representation of women is leading to growing concerns. Recently, a national discussion began on whether this is a task of the political parties or whether the state has to act. Should a parity law or a reform of electoral law be introduced, including binding regulations on adequate representation of women?

    Although the Dutch Constitution is also clear about equal rights for women and men, gender equality has not been incorporated into electoral law. It is considered to be a matter of subsidiarity: political parties are responsible for effectively putting into practice women’s representation on candidate lists. Although all major parties spoke out in favour of proportional representation of women, others have not done so, with the result that equal representation in the Dutch parliament has, so far, not been reached.   

    The figures of political representation of women in the European and national parliaments, and the German and Dutch cases lead to a clear conclusion: subsidiarity is not the solution. Well-designed electoral quota laws are essential in increasing women’s representation in politics. Having a gender equality clause in a Constitution is not optional. It requires effective pursuit and implementation. Equality is a fundamental right.

    Moreover, the Council of Europe states that a ‘balanced participation’ of women and men in political and public decision-making is a condition for justice and democracy, and that the representation of either women or men in any decision-making body in political or public life should not fall below 40%. The EU has been committed to the same goal since the beginning of this century. The Union considers “achieving a gender balance in political representation and participation as a matter of justice, equality and democracy”. Even closer to our centre-right political family: In Christian Democratic theory, political philosopher Jonathan Chaplin and others state that equality and justice are at the centre of the discourse on equality and inequality, and thus especially on equal rights.

    So, what are we waiting for?


    [1] The Dutch elections of March 2021 have increased this figure to 39%.

    The author welcomes any comments or requests for further information. Hillie van de Streek can be reached on her LinkedIn profile.

    Hillie van de Streek European Union Gender Equality Political Parties

    Hillie van de Streek

    Equal political participation of women and men: Subsidiarity is not the solution

    Blog

    07 Apr 2021

  • This week’s guest answered Roland Freudenstein’s questions on Women’s Day, Covid-19, abortion in Poland, and women in politics.

    Roland Freudenstein Gender Equality

    The Week in 7 Questions with Agnieszka Pomaska

    Multimedia - The Week in 7 Questions

    12 Mar 2021

  • he von der Leyen Commission has made gender equality a central component of its ambitious programme. But, as the latest Martens Centre research highlights, notwithstanding the significant progress of recent years, barriers remain which prevent women from advancing equally in society. Yet, President von der Leyen’s leadership role is essential in ensuring that all commissioners work together to place gender equality at the centre of Brussels decision-making process.

    In the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, which is disproportionally impacting upon the economic prospects of women, this event will focus on identifying how the von der Leyen Commission can leave a lasting gender equality legacy. Should the focus be on educational investment given its role in tackling gender bias? Can education also play a key role in tackling embedded gender stereotypes evident across all European societies? Is obtaining a more sustainable Work-Life Balance, through interventions in childcare and early years education, a key factor in better enabling women to compete in the labour market on a more equal footing? Join us as we discuss these important issues with a distinguished panel of experts.SHOW LESS

    France Fitzgerald Eoin Drea Gender Equality

    Building a Gender Equality Legacy from the von der Leyen Commission

    Live-streams - Multimedia

    09 Mar 2021

  • The von der Leyen Commission has made gender equality a central component of its ambitious programme. This policy brief highlights that, notwithstanding the significant progress of recent years, barriers remain which prevent women from advancing equally in society. The first of these barriers is posed by gender stereotypes. The second concerns differences in preferences and opportunities for work–life balance. The third barrier is caused by the combined negative effects of class and gender.

    This brief sets forth a number of policy recommendations aimed at helping the von der Leyen Commission to build a lasting legacy for gender equality. Only by making profound structural changes will the current Commission achieve results that can be viewed as truly transformational.

    One recommendation is to put educational investment at the core of Europe’s Social Market Economy. The second recommendation is to develop formal childcare for children from three to school age. This is a public policy that has a positive effect on men’s and women’s attitudes towards gender equality, in addition to wider benefits for the economy, parents’ work–life balance, educational outcomes and women’s equality in general. Finally, all policies at EU level should be assessed to determine their impact across multiple barriers and policy sectors for achieving gender equality. Policies focused on vulnerable groups often overlook the fact that the barriers preventing women from utilising existing resources are found in many different areas.

    EU Institutions Gender Equality Leadership

    Building a Gender Equality Legacy From the von der Leyen Commission

    Policy Briefs

    08 Feb 2021