“Women across Europe face greater poverty and poorer pay and working conditions than men. On average they earn between 14%-17% less than men and are more likely to be on fixed term contracts.” Plumb Report (2010/2162(INI)
Romanian Women situation
In the context of an enlarged EU (after the 2007 experience) Romanian waves of migration started to fill in the gap for workforce needed in Europe at all levels. Still, due to economic, social and in particular political constraints, Romanians did not enjoy full free movement of workers right (Article 39 of the EU Treaty). Consequently, illegal and undeclared work, rough migration experiences, labour exploitation became business as usual. Above that, the changes and developments registered on the EU economy partly because of the crisis and partly because of the discretionary implementation of flexicurity, weakened the labour market and exposed migrant workers even more throwing them into precarious jobs. Among them, women are the most affected.
The European Parliament already recalled that non-standard employment has grown significantly since 1990 and the jobs lost as a result of the present economic crisis were primarily those in the atypical sector. The unemployment rate in the EU27 was 10% in 2009 and these job losses have resulted in a dramatic increase in levels of poverty. The number of people living in in-work poverty is increasing, having reached 8% of the European workforce and the proportion of low-wage earners is currently about 17%. It states that women, who represent a significant segment of those working on atypical contracts, are the most affected by the rising unemployment in this sector.
For example, part-time work, as an atypical form of employment, is widespread in the services sector, in particular in the social and personal care services, where the majority of employees are women (EP Report 2010/2018(INI) and EP Report (2010/2162(INI).
Studies show that a disproportionate number of young men and women under 30 work in jobs with fixed-term contracts of employment. Almost one third of both male and female employees under 30 in the EU-25 are employed on a fixed-term basis, which is over double the proportion of employees of all ages employed on such contracts. It has also been revealed that women and ethnic minorities are particularly affected by precarious work conditions.
The result is social exploitation, low wages and increasing social inequality. There are several categories which are more hit than others and that is whereas atypical form of work took over the traditional form of employment: temporary and seasonal workers, workers on fixed-term or part-time contracts, migrant and bogus self-employed workers, subcontracted employees and clandestine workers have all become second- or even third-class employees, especially migrant women.
Some sectors are more exposed than others. For example, many employees in the agricultural, tourism, restaurants, cleaning and housekeeping sectors are migrant women. The series of cases bringing to light exploitation issues, social dumping and modern slavery in areas where strawberries and tomatoes are being picked-up, when there is season (e.g. Spain or Italy), are very common. The undeclared form of labour, salaries causing social dumping and/or obligation to become bogus self-employed within the meat industry, for example inside the “abattoirs” (e.g. Belgium) were heavily reported. These kinds of situations will never help women to feel integrated, secure and capable to benefit from pensions, unemployment benefit or any other advantage of being a legally declared and well treated employee.
Still in this sense, certain forms of work performed by women, such as paid or non-paid domestic work and care work are invisible on the labour market. Traditionally, it is known that the largest parts of migrants who stay at home taking up the family housekeeping and child care are the women. Re-entering the labour market is not the easiest thing to do. For both this category of those who work well below their professional qualifications and those who stay at home to take care of the children, there is a strong need for a better information from the competent authorities regarding training and open possibilities to obtain better, qualitative jobs.
Every Member State has its own sectors whereas Romanian migrant women are strongly active. Whereas in Spain and Italy is agriculture and care, in Germany is tourism and restaurants. Whereas in Belgium is care, cleaning or meat sector it does have a specificity which is Brussels related: EU affairs. It is important to mention that although all women face their particular integration problems within these sectors, they all deal with some common challenges: labour exploitation, discriminatory access to the labour market and little help from the relevant authorities.
Due to the existence of the transitional arrangements still existing in a few Member States (e.g. Belgium) and whereas the labour market is opened in many situations only for a few professions lacking e.g.: construction, cleaning, nursing, many migrant women accept jobs well below their qualification and potential. Highly-skilled migrant women are forced to accept any job to support their family and contribute to family income. All in all, many of the jobs opened on the labour market, where there is no need for a working permit, are low-skilled jobs or jobs for which women are overqualified. This causes a waste of human potential both for the host and home country. The lack of coordination and coherence between qualifications and jobs widens the gap between EU and citizens even harder. It halts the competitiveness and innovation capacity of the Union.
All in all, the still existing need for a working permit as well as the necessity to obtain a residence card are interrelated in a manner that poses the migrant women in an impossible situation to enter the labour market. It cuts the benefits of belonging to one single European market able to bring economic and social progress. In other words, in Belgium, if one does not have a working permit, can’t have a residence card, but if one does not have a residence card can’t attain the working permit. A strategic component of the puzzle is the interim agency for example, which has insufficient knowledge whatsoever regarding the procedural aspects on how to obtain a working permit and what are the rights of the new Member States migrants. Consequently, it has been reported a high degree of job refusals by employers and/or interim agencies on the ground of lack of working permit. They are not aware that they are the one entitled to ask one for the potential employee. The procedure is very easy and does not last for more than 15 days since the introduction of the request at the Employment Minister.
We can all agree that free movement of workers is capable to deliver good, quality jobs for women as well. It has been shown that free movement of workers has to be encouraged as it supports the development of the EU internal market and is capable to improve the economic welfare of the Member States.
To achieve the Europe 2020 employment and growth objectives, the European Commission engaged to work on facilitating and promoting intra-EU mobility in the context of the new strategy for the single market (following the presentation of the Monti report). The Europe 2020 strategy reinforces the importance of facilitating and promoting EU mobility. Several programmes and tools have been developed to help mobile and migrants’ integration but there is still room for improvement. Information campaigns, brochures, websites, books have been promoted, but Europe still faces serious difficulties in attaining its objective of social cohesion, gender equality and equal chances. Social inclusion is one of the five ambitions of this new Strategy. We need to work even harder than before to get it. That is why, from now on, every year should be dedicated to fight against poverty and social exclusion for as long as the facts speak for themselves.
On the ground of all the above mentioned details and after the discussions with the Romanian women community in Belgium, the Romanian Socialist Democrats Women in Belgium call for:
-removal of the transitional arrangements,
-equal rights and equal payment for all,
-better implementation of penalties where abuses at the working place are reported,
-better information of the interim agencies regarding the rights of the new workers coming from Romania,
-better information of migrant women about their rights, their options for vocational and professional training, for children education and help needed in cases of abuses of any kind,
-consolidation of the existing information tools and institutions (e.g. Embassies),
-studying the feasibility to build-up a specific information contact point in the most targeted Member States which can ensure free information regarding their rights, obligations and possibilities to actualize their human potential,
-better connection between migrant women in the host country and children left at home,
-promotion of migrant women as key in the development of the society values,
-promotion of success stories of migrant women to stand as encouragement for the others who fear to dear for more.
NB: this document refers to Romanian women as migrants although legally they are mobile citizens of the EU. In practice, this is not always the case as they are still not treated as equal citizens of the EU.
Precarious Employment and Working Conditions in Europe, Eurofound, 2006