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Europe, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, unemployment, Women

How Austerity is Hurting Women in Europe – In Numbers

Women are disproportionally affected by austerity cuts because they are society’s main carers, and the main users of public services and welfare recipients, where there have been heavy reductions in budgets; they predominate in low paid, insecure employment, which is expanding, facilitated by labour counter-reforms; because they are heavily employed in the public sector where there have been big job cuts; because they are already discriminated against in a whole number of areas.

Here’s story of women and European austerity so far – told in numbers.


  • The jobless rate among women in the Eurozone rose to 12.1% in January 2013, highest in a decade or more.
  • Women’s employment rate in 22 countries in Europe is back to 2005 levels and way off the EU’s headline target to reach a 75% employment rate for women and men by 2020.
  • More than one fourth of the female labour force is currently unemployed in Greece and Spain, where (Greece: 28.1% in June 2012, up from 12.5% in 2009; Spain 25.3% in August 2012). In Greece young women are the most affected group: 62,1% of them are currently unemployed.
  • Italian women with children are nine times more likely to be jobless than fathers in the North of Italy, 10 times more likely in the centre of italy and 14 times more likely in the South with 1 in 4 women who were employed before becoming mothers  still without a job two years after the birth of their first child.
  •  Half a million Italian women are hidden from the official jobless statistics, bringing the real female unemployment rate in 2010 to 30.6%.
  • More than 100,000 women lost their jobs in Italy’s south between 2008 and 2010,
  • In Italy in education, 19,700 women’s jobs have been cut and 87,000 more are expected in coming years.
  • In the UK, 710,000 public sector jobs will be lost by 2017,with twice as many women than men expected to lose their jobs
  • Only 1 in 4 young women have work in the poorer south of Italy


  • 47% of Spanish women workers earn less than 15,000 euros a year and unemployment and labour reforms are increasing that gender pay gap
  • In the healthcare sector in Portugal, the new short-term contracts for nurses now have an hourly salary of €4, €2 less than in 2011.
  • While in 2008 women in Latvia earned 13.4% less than men on average, by 2010 the difference had increased to 17.6%.
  • In Latvia the burden on cutting down wages has fallen heavily on teachers, almost 80 % of them women. In 2011 the minimum statutory teacher’s salary was only about 6.000 euros annually, 30% less than in 2008.


  • 17% of women in the EU are in poverty, rising to 20% in Italy, Romania, Sweden, and Austria
  • 21% of Spanish women (compared to 19% of men) are poor, and one third of elder women are at risk of poverty.
  • 33.7% of Italian women between 25 and 54 years of age don’t have an income.

Welfare and work benefits

  • In Romania in 2010 the government cut the maternity leave benefit to 65% of the previous payment and reduced the length of the leave.
  • In Macedonia maternity leave benefit was in 2010 reduced from 100% to 75-80% of the previous salary.
  • In Slovenia the parental leave benefit has been reduced from 100% of the former salary to 90%.
  • In Germany parental leave benefit has been cut from 67% to 65% of the former salary for persons earning more than €1200 net, while those with medium-level and high monthly earnings are not affected by the saving. Also the planned doubling of the duration of partial parental leave benefits for parents working part-time, most of whom women, are put on hold.
  • In Estonia benefits paid to parents taking care of a sick child have been reduced from 100% to 80% of the salary.
  • In the Czech Republic the benefits given to those taking care of dependent family members (mainly disabled people) have been reduced.
  • In Portugal benefits for the care of disabled children were cut by 30%.
  • In Ireland the carers’ allowance, mainly used by middle-aged and older women for whom it is an important source of income, has been reduced by €8 per week for less than 66 year olds.
  • In Germany 85% of unemployed women received benefits against 89% of men, and the unemployment benefits of men were on average more than 200 euros higher than those of women, in 2009
  • In Ireland child benefit was reduced in the budget by €10 per month for the two first children, €19 for the third child and €17 for the fourth and subsequent children. From January 2013, the rate will be standardized at the rate of the first child, €140. A family with five children, for example, will see a drop in Child Benefit from €801 a month in 2011 to €700 a month in 2013. In addition, supplements paid at 4 and 12 years of age to mothers of twins and triplets have been withdrawn, and the additional payment to lone parent families has been reduced by €8 per week.
  • Child benefit has been reduced in Denmark: the ceiling limiting the maximum amount of universal child allowance was reduced to €4600 (35000 DKR) per family per year, irrespective of the number of children.
  • In the UK the level of child benefit has been frozen until April 2014. With inflation, this means that the value of the benefit will be cut by over 10% by 2014. A family with one child will be around £130 (€165) worse off than if the benefit had been increased in line with inflation.
  • Child benefit has been frozen also in Finland.

Care services (including childcare)

  • The European employment rate of women with small children (under 12) was on average 12.7 pp. lower in 2011 than that of women with no children, against 11.5 pp, illustrating the impact to cuts to care services or rising childcare costs.
  • In the Czech Republic more than 30.000 children were refused in state preschool institutions in 2011, in 2012 the number was expected to be even higher.
  • In the Netherlands, as of January 2012 most parents have received a smaller proportion of their childcare costs back from the tax agency.
  • In the UK the level of childcare costs covered by the state has been cut from 80% to 70%. As a consequence, families with two children with weekly childcare costs of £300 will lose £30 (€37) a week representing £1560 (€2000) a year.
  • In Ireland home helps for the elderly and disabled have been reduced with a €10million cut to personal assistance hours, adding to the €1.7million cut for home care in 2010.


  • 67% of French women feared losing purchasing power, 45% fear a loss of quality of life and 38% fear losing their job as a result of the economic crisis, according to a survey
  • Spain has slashed by 24% the budget promoting policies for equality, triple the average cuts to government departmental budgets
  • Spain has also reduced government  expenditure on combating violence against women by 7%.
  • 15% rise in female prostitution in Spain since the start of the crisis, which has forced women, particularly while collar administrative and professionals as well as young university students, according to one study. A similar trend has been noted in Portugal as well
  • 63,500 small businesses led by women destroyed in Spain since May 2008
  • 44% of Spain’s female population feels stress and anxiety has increased because of economic problems particularly because it means they have more work in the home and a more precarious job situation

Check out the International Women’s Day Statement by European radical feminists











About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or email [email protected]


3 thoughts on “How Austerity is Hurting Women in Europe – In Numbers

  1. An excellent surwey! However, to be able to translate it to my mother tongue for publishing in my country, I´d like to ask anybody to explain what does it mean the abbreviation of “pp” in the sentence of “The European employment rate of women with small children (under 12) was on average 12.7 pp. lower in 2011 than that of women with no children, against 11.5 pp, illustrating the impact to cuts to care services or rising childcare costs.” Can anybody help?

    Posted by viridivalleVladimir Sedlacek | May 5, 2013, 1:11 pm
  2. An excellent survey! However, to be able to publish it in my mother´s Czech, I´d like to ask you to explain what does it mean the abbreviation of “pp” in the sentence of • The European employment rate of women with small children (under 12) was on average 12.7 pp. lower in 2011 than that of women with no children, against 11.5 pp, illustrating the impact to cuts to care services or rising childcare costs.

    Posted by viridivalle | May 5, 2013, 1:19 pm

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