Swiss think tank proposes several measures to strengthen gender equality in the economy

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Swiss think tank proposes several measures to strengthen gender equality in the economy
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From paternity leave to more subsidized day-care centres or measures to reduce the gender pay gap, Zurich-based think tank Foraus argues in a new paper that the federal government must act across Switzerland to empower women in the workplace.


Foraus' new paper argues that Switzerland needs to reconcile the disparity between its domestic and foreign policy on gender rights. The think tank argues that direct democracy is a threat to resolving discrimination against women in the workplace. 

"The lack of popular support for gender equality measures, deeply conservative beliefs about the division of labour held by a large share of the population, and high costs associated with running a campaign for referenda present further obstacles to the implementation of measures against gender discrimination in the workplace," argues the paper. 

It argues that Switzerland needs to do more to implement The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which the Alpine nation ratified in 1997. The paper makes a series of recommendations.

1. Standardize affordability and availability of day-care centres in all cantons

Foraus argues that the regulation of childcare facilities must be standardized, since it is almost entirely the competences of the cantons and communes. Thus the availability and costs of day-care vary significantly among different places in Switzerland.

"Compared to the five day- care places that exist per 1,000 inhabitants in the canton of Aargau, only 0.6 places are available for the same number of inhabitants in Appenzell- Innerrhoden. Day-care in the francophone part of Switzerland is also greatly financed by public funds, while in the German and Italian parts of the country parents pay most expenses related to childcare out of their own pocket," argues Foraus. 

2. Resolve incoherence in domestic and foreign policy concerning gender equality

The paper argues that Switzerland remains committed to contributing to gender equality internationally yet the federal government has often rejected moves to strengthen gender equality domestically. It cites the 2018 decision to opposes a four-week paternity leave as an example. 

Foraus proposes standardizing gender inclusiveness in teacher training across all cantons too.

"Since education is also mostly regulated and funded by cantons, it is difficult to adopt a holistic strategy to mainstream gender-inclusive approaches in all curricula and trainings for teachers," argues the paper. 

"The Federal Office for Gender Equality (FOGE) should work together with the FDFA in developing strategic partnerships with leading media outlets to disseminate information on gender equality issues," adds Foraus. The federal government should also work together with the Swiss Association of Judges, the Swiss University Conference and universities for the training of the judiciary, attorney and university law professors on the correct application of CEDAW, adds the paper. 

3. Sanctions to address the gender pay gap

The paper notes that only five years ago Switzerland ranked among the bottom three Organisation for Economic and Development Cooperation (OECD) countries in terms of gender pay gap. "The Gender Pay Gap in Switzerland should be effectively addressed by making it mandatory for companies with a minimum of 25 employees to reveal their employees’ salaries and to introduce a sanction mechanism to penalize companies that continue to show a gender pay gap after eight years of transition period," proposes Foraus. 

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4. A nationwide study on sexual harassment

The last comprehensive study on sexual harassment was conducted in 2008, according to the paper. Yet a 2017 survey by the #MeToo movement revealed that about 55% of surveyed women and 49% of surveyed men have experienced treatment that could be considered a form of sexual harassment during their working life.

"The FOGE should conduct a comprehensive nationwide study on the prevalence of sexual harassment," argues the paper, as well as "establish training programmes for the prevention of harassment in private and public institutions."

5. A statutory 38-week parental leave should be introduced

According to a study conducted by MenCare in 2017, 26 initiatives demanding some form of paternity or parental leave have been debated and subsequently rejected in the Swiss parliament over the last ten years. 

"Entitlement to paternity leave also differs greatly from canton to canton with Geneva providing two weeks but Solothurn only two days," argues the paper.

"Companies generally benefit from parental leave since their turnover quota is reduced and qualified personnel retained. In other words, paid leaves have the potential to increase labour market participation and job continuity – especially among mothers," states the paper. 

"All political actors in Switzerland should push for the introduction of a statutory parental leave of 38 weeks, with 14 weeks reserved for parent giving birth and 8 weeks for the second parent on a non-transferable basis, flexible take- up possibilities and an 80% wage replacement," adds Foraus. 

Read the full paper by Foraus here

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