Violence against women, whether physical or economic, is still a reality in Belgium, according to a memorandum drawn up jointly by the Federal, Brussels and Wallonia councils for equal opportunity with an eye to the 26 May elections.
Women earn 8% less than men for the same job and work hours, but that is just the tip of the iceberg, according to the memorandum, the first report of its kind to be done jointly by the three councils.
However, gender-based economic discrimination is not limited to the wage gap. The figures for part-time work are also indicative of the disparities, the memorandum shows. “In the 1970s, it was strongly encouraged,” said Dominique De Vos, president of the Federal Council’s Social Security Commission. “But in 2016, it involved 44.9% of female workers as against 10.8% of male ones.
“To this day, it does not guarantee medium- or long-term economic independence or ensure that household tasks are balanced within the couple.”
In this regard, the three Councils advocate compulsory maternity leave extended to 20 working days for both parents. “That would be a step towards a better distribution” of the family responsibility, they feel.
To move towards salary equality, total transparency is required with regard to remunerations, including fringe benefits – enjoyed by few professional women – while a minimum wage of 14 euros (gross) per hour for all would improve the situation of many women.
About 85% of women are also single parents, which is also a factor of impoverishment. “In fact, 83% of single parents with children are unable to cater for unexpected expenses, run a risk of joblessness that is three times higher than for couples with children, have a hard time paying rent or kindergarten fees, and refrain from spending on health-related expenses twice a week, according to the memorandum.
The compensation given to households in terms of family allowances, lodging, health, tax matters would require a more effective overview, the three Councils noted. “SECAL, in particular, which has the task of intervening to obtain unpaid alimony payments, would require structural reinforcement in addition to needing better promotion.”
Flanders was invited to participate in drawing up the joint memorandum, but it did not participate because it has no structure that is comparable to that of the three other Councils.