The Guest Blog

Guest commentary by Vaso Kollia, Secretary General for Gender Equality at the Greek Ministry of Interiors.

Is gender equality only about justice, or is the question at hand relevant to much needed economic development as well? That is one more question for the Junker Commission to address.

After all, the incoming Commission is not another Commission, but another type of a Commission, founded on the legitimating basis of a less than straightforward “stated majority,” taking office in the context of an acute economic crisis. President Junker may very well be a member of the European People’s Party, but he needs to confront a Eurosceptic Parliament and constituencies in Europe that all too obviously have been worn by the crisis. Nonetheless, the crisis persists, as forecasts indicate that growth for 2014 will remain elusive.

Taking stock of this crisis, in May 2014, the outgoing Barroso Commission initiated a process of public consultation in which we can still participate: governments, public and private agencies, civic organizations and individuals. The objective is the revision of Europe’s 2020 strategic framework.

Theoretically, the Europe 2020 framework enables member states to ex ante coordinate their reform policies, thereby advancing a model of “smart,” “sustainable” and “inclusive” growth. This “in principle” harmonization of national action plans does contribute to development policy coordination, but has little bearing on social or regional cohesion policy in Europe.

“Development” means investment in knowledge, research and innovation, which adds value to products and services. On the basis of this definition, the Hellenic General Secretariat for Gender Equality suggests that the “woman-factor” should be clustered under the “smart growth” rather than merely “inclusive growth” priority, as it has so far been the case. We therefore suggest the creation of a new emblematic field of action, indicatively entitled “Women and Growth,” reasoning that human resources – talent – is now a factor of production as significant as capital.

For generations, the strategic underestimation of women for growth has led to loss of individual opportunity for personal economic and educational growth, which has a compounding negative effect on our social capital. This waste of human resources is one that we can no longer afford, demographically or economically, in Greece or in Europe. In other words, there will be no short term recovery if we do not service our outstanding debt to the other half of our human capital, that is, women.

In Greece we are already developing policies that capitalize on the “other half” of Greek human resources, so as to boost our competitiveness. However, both in Greece and elsewhere in Europe, it is becoming apparent that there is friction between immediate and long term development objectives. Thus, the objective of fiscal consolidation takes precedence over long term investment in training, research and development and, not least, the advancement of substantive opportunities for women. This fact has long term consequences for our desired trajectory of social, economic and regional cohesion. In this scheme, the proposal of the Hellenic General Secretariat for Gender Equality aims at mobilizing Community funds so as to avoid undermining long term competitiveness for the sake of meeting short term objectives.

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