WOMEN ARE UNDER-REPRESENTED IN DECISION MAKING POSITIONS AND CONSISTENTLY GET PAID LESS THAN MEN FOR THE SAME WORK.
MEN TOO ARE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST WHEN IT COMES TO PATERNITY LEAVE.
Equality at Work and at Home
Whilst the overall female employment rate is increasing, when compared, to other EU states it is still on the low side. Malta likewise has one of the lowest birth rates in the EU (1.4 live births per woman). This is below the considered replacement level of births required, which stands at 2.1. This low fertility rate suggests that we have a low compatibility between women’s paid work and childbearing (Miani & Hoorens, 2014; Del Boca, 2002). In fact, nearly a quarter of Maltese women (24.6%) claim that they are unable to work due to personal and family responsibilities (NSO, LFS Q.3, 2016).The number of Maltese men who are unable to work for the same reasons is negligible (less than 20 men in total were found in a sample of 3,200 private households).
Short school opening hours (primary schools typically finish around 14.00 or 14.30) and traditional gender roles and gender stereotyping contribute to this situation, amongst other issues. Furthermore, the care of sick children, especially when they start attending childcare or kindergarten, presents parents with a challenging dilemma. Children often get sick at short notice and so it becomes fundamental to ask whether the current 15 hour emergency leave is sufficient. At present, parents have few options when faced with sick children. They can either take the day off or try to find someone who would stay with the children if they want to go to work. If this fails, they can ‘pretend’ to be sick themselves in order to be able to stay at home with their sick child. So far, this problem has not been adequately addressed and rather than pretending the problem does not exist, it needs to be tackled. Whilst at present some families can still rely on the grandparents to solve some of the care problems, as more women remain in the labour market, this support is likely to decrease further.
The EIGE equality index (2015), notes that one of the most serious challenges for gender equality in Malta is the unequal division of time spent by women and men on unpaid work.
Women still disproportionately bear the responsibility for house chores and care work when compared to men. For example, 75% of women compared to only 17% of men cooked or did housework on a daily basis for at least one hour, and the situation has deteriorated (a drop of 10.6 percentage points) since 2005. Personal time spent on house work and family related responsibilities has a major impact on women’s employment opportunities and their economic independence and it raises bigger challenges for women to balance their paid work with their personal life. As a result, mothers may opt to leave the labour market (albeit temporarily), to reduce their working hours or to work part time. This may also hamper career progression in that mothers may decline promotions for fear that they may not be able to cope with their (assumed) work-family demands especially in relation to caring. Likewise, this is also likely to affect the number of children they opt to have, either because of affordability issues or because of the assumption that more children will increase their work-family conflict.
All this suggests that urgent measures must be taken to challenge traditional gendered stereotypes about women and men’s roles in the family, at work and in society. For example, it is fundamental that caring and housework is shared more equally between women and men. Furthermore, more work-life measures, such as flexible work and better paid family leave, and incentives (like a reserved quota of parental leave for fathers) are needed to ensure that women and men can have the family they want while at the same time being able to earn a decent living.
The Gender Pay Gap
Whilst for many years Malta had one of the lowest gaps amongst the EU states (4.5%), in last quarter of 2016, following a revision on the publication of Structure of Earnings Survey, there was a considerable increase of 6.1 percentage points in the Gender Pay Gap.
This means that Gender Pay Gap (based on 2014 data) shot up to 10.6%. This is still below the EU average of 16.1%, but complacency is not an option if we want to control the increasing gender pay gap.
Finding a solution to the gender pay gap is mainly in the hands of national governments and the social partners. The gender pay gap is a complex issue and requires attention on different fronts and with different stakeholders.