A report has been released sponsored by the Trade Union Congress has said that leaving the European Union would severely hamper women’s rights in the United Kingdom. The vote happens on the 23rd June and the TUC said a ‘yes’ vote would hit both equal pay and protection against discrimination.
The congress said that the EU had been an important part in empowering both the ability of women to work in an equal environment. They recognize that there had been huge gains which had been driven by EU membership. These include equal wages for thousands of low paid women, plus the implementation of paid holidays for part time workers.
There is a perception that perhaps ordinary workers would be better off without the bureaucracy of the EU but the reality is that much of the real important legislation which has protected women’s rights in recent years has come from Europe. Simple things like discrimination in pregnancy and more rights for lower paid and temporary workers have all come from Europe.
These have made an important improvement to women’s and worker’s lives. Much of the legislation that is referred to as burdens include many social, welfare and employment protections which help the more vulnerable in our societies. Often these are not politically expedient to a democratically elected government but do longer term protection for people and societies. This is why sometimes legislation derived from the EU is unlikely to happen in domestic politics and courts – there’s less of a short term financial gain for the government.
There are other benefits of course, which will directly affect women’s rights including the economic benefits. In times of austerity and recession, it is usually women who suffer disproportionately because of their working patterns and less flexibility. The single market despite it’s critics has brought economic success and stability in a huge number of areas. Take the example of digital goods and services, the European Union is at the forefront of establishing rules to govern these. Situations where I cannot access the BBC iPlayer because of my location, so I can’t watch BBC News live because I happen to be spending the weekend in France – it’s crazy. The EU is trying to pass legislation ensuring that if I buy something in one European country online then it’s available anywhere else in Europe to me. SO digital subscriptions and services don’t suddenly disappear just because I happen to have crossed a border.
Why is this important? Well the digital sector is starting to bring a huge economic contribution to the GDP of many European countries, supporting and encouraging this market to grow will bring prosperity, jobs and economic advantages. It’s also ridiculous that I have to spend ages looking for the best VPN for Netflix every few weeks when I travel abroad to access a service I have paid for but can’t access.