Women at poverty-risk

Too much wage and welfare inequality between genders, denounced by Barbara Haas (Kfbö)

Compared to not too distant past, poverty is no longer a mass phenomenon in Europe. Nonetheless, many EU countries are experiencing the expansion of population brackets with excessively low wages and who are denied access to adequate social protection health care service, and/or housing. In Austria these problems currently involve 500 thousand people, on an overall population of approximately 8 million people, manu of whom are women. Massimo Lavena, for Sir Europe, addressed the issue with Barbara Haas, president of Kfbö – Katholische Frauenbewegung Österreichs, the Catholic Austrian Women movement. What is the current situation in Austria in terms of economic and social equality between men and women? “The pay gap between men and women currently amounts to 21.3% (Court of Auditors Report, 2012 salaries). The fact that despite high education levels and higher rates of employed women (from 61.2% in 2002 to 67,3% in 2012) women continue being paid lower wages than men, also depends on increasingly higher numbers of women in part-time jobs: from 35.3% in 2002 to 44.9% in 2012. During the same year 70% of women between 25 and 49 had part-time jobs because they had to take care of children under the age of 15. Two-thirds of domestic work, care and support continue to be carried out by women, as reported by the recent Report on Women. In ‘traditionally female’ sectors, wages are significantly lower than in ‘traditionally male’ sectors. Since social benefits depend largely on the level of wages and the duration of professional activity, women are punished twice: to lower incomes correspond lower unemployment benefits and lower pensions. Poverty-risk among women – the elderly as well as single mothers – is significantly higher compared to men”. How can increasing poverty among single women be addressed? “The Catholic Women’s movement appeals to national and European political leaders to take measures to prevent a worsening of the situation of women and disadvantaged population brackets, caused by austerity policies. The appeal is released against the backdrop of the imminent “EU Competitiveness Pact’. Accordingly, Euro zone Countries – on the basis of bilateral Treaties with the EU Commission – are called carry out structural reforms to improve competitiveness. It is feared that repercussions might bring about the dismantlement of the welfare State, along with lower wages, cuts in health care services and education, limitation of workers’ rights, deregulation, privatization and a weakening of the public sector. It involves in particular those women already tried by various strains and lower earnings. The dogma of competitiveness increases the gap between rich and poor, further worsening gender inequalities. The dismantling of the welfare state also means dismantling the rights of women”. How should Christian faithful address the growing need for help coming from women refugees seeking solidarity and help in Austria? “Christian men and women should address the cries for help of persecuted refugees by showing attention and respect, and by providing concrete and direct support. The encounter with refugees is very powerful. They lived discrimination on their own skin. They experienced violence, persecution, marginalization and exclusion. For example, a young woman from Chechnya told me about her flight with her family. They lived for days inside a car: heat, fear, hunger and thirst were their only companions. At night, the family was abandoned in a forest. The driver had told them: ‘Follow that direction, someone will find you.’ Years of uncertainties ensued for the family. At the beginning of the flight the child was two years old. At sixteen she finally obtained a residence permit. She can stay in Austria and get an education here… Together we also support the Solwodi organization for ex-prostitutes victims of human trafficking, exploitation and violence, in dire need of our help”.

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