Women in Switzerland have gone on strike – this is why

swiss women

Lake Zurich, Switzerland (Yanapi Senaud, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Charlotte Edmond, Formative Content


It’s one of the wealthiest and democratic countries in the world, but as recently as 1991, some women in Switzerland were still denied the right to vote. As women marched for their rights, the Federal Supreme Court forced the one remaining canton where only men could vote to change its ways.

But, a generation on, Swiss women were back on the streets on June 14 in a nationwide women’s strike to protest at a lack of progress on gender equality and fair pay.

As well as demanding equal pay for equal work, they are calling for the recognition of ‘women’s work’ and policies to end violence and discrimination against women.

Switzerland is a major financial centre and home to several multinational corporations. It has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe, with maternal employment particularly high. But despite this, its traditional outlook on family issues means it has been slow at adopting policies that support women.

“There is a whole range of issues on which we still need to progress, be they classic themes like equal pay or new themes that a new generation of young women have raised such as harassment in the street,” Green Party politician, Adele Thorens told Reuters.

“As a politician, I would like to highlight a key theme that corresponds to what I have experienced, which is under-representation of women in organs of power, at the political level, but also at the economic level, and in all spheres of our society where important decisions are taken.”

The right to vote

In February 1971, Swiss men voted to allow women to take part in federal elections – already decades later than many of its European neighbours and almost 80 years after New Zealand.

But it took a further two decades before all the cantons – the semi-autonomous regions that operate a bit like US states – followed suit. By contrast, at the time of the federal court ruling in 1991, Britain’s first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, had already ended her decade in office.

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about the gender gap?

The World Economic Forum has been measuring gender gaps in countries since 2006 in the annual Global Gender Gap Report.

To turn these insights into concrete action and national progress, we have developed the Closing the Gender Gap Task Force model for public private collaboration. These Task Forces have been convened in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Panama and Peru in partnership with the InterAmerican Development Bank; and in France, with a goal to expand the model to build a global network of economies accelerating gender parity.

In these eight countries CEOs and ministers are working together in a three-year time frame on policies that help to further close the economic gender gaps in their countries. This includes extended parental leave, subsidized childcare and removing unconscious bias in recruitment, retention and promotion practices.

If you are a business in one of the Closing the Gender Gap Task Force countries you can join the local membership base.

If you are a business or government in a country where we currently do not have a Closing the Gender Gap Task Force you can reach out to us to explore opportunities for setting one up.

The gender gap

As progress on gender equality stagnated globally, the World Economic Forum’s 2018 Gender Gap Report placed Switzerland 20th among 149 nations.

It scored well with regard to political empowerment, with 35 women in parliament and 27 in ministerial positions. Ruth Dreifuss became the first female president of Switzerland in 1999 and there have been others since.

But when it comes to economic participation, it was in 34th place, down from 18th in 2006. Only 34% of legislators, senior officials and managers are female, compared with 66% male.

Working mums

Figures from the Federal Bureau of Statistics show a gender pay gap of nearly 20%.

The headline employment rate masks the particularly high number of women in part-time work and the OECD has called on Switzerland to address some of its policies to support working mothers

At the time of that report, in 2004, 75% of Swiss mothers worked part-time out of necessity to cover childcare, which the OECD said would hinder their career progression.

Image: Federal Statistical Office

 

Not so family-friendly

A Unicef report released this month portrays Switzerland as the least family-friendly country in Europe, with other poor performers including Greece, Cyprus, the UK and Ireland.

The report outlines policies that make life hard for families in Switzerland: it offers the shortest paid maternity leave in Europe and one of the lowest in the OECD. It is also one of only a handful of countries to offer no paid leave for fathers.

Paid maternity leave was only introduced in Switzerland in 2005 after a bumpy ride which saw it fail four times at the ballot box.

Image: Unicef

Less obvious drivers keeping women out of work include irregular school hours: many schools in Switzerland close on Wednesdays and for lunch, making full-time roles difficult.

Childcare costs in Switzerland can also be prohibitive. A 2011 OECD report found that it doesn’t pay to work.

Swiss families spend more of their income than any other in the world on childcare, and finding a childcare place may also be tricky.

After the original women’s strike, on June 14, 1991, when 500,000 people took to the streets, the government responded with a federal law on equality, establishing the right to maternity leave and protection against domestic violence. Today’s strikers are hoping their demands are met for good this time.

Advertising

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Threat from petty criminals who turn to terrorism, a growing concern, Security Council hears

1st Exclusive High Level Dialogue: China-EU Cybersecurity and 5G Cooperation

With science ‘held back by a gender gap’, Guterres calls for more empowerment for women and girls

Security Union: Commission receives mandate to start negotiating international rules for obtaining electronic evidence

More than four in 10 women, live in fear of refusing partner’s sexual demands, new UN global study finds

Hunger in Yemen: WFP considers aid suspension in face of repeated interference by some Houthi leaders

State aid: Commission approves Luxembourg guarantee measure to further support economy in coronavirus outbreak

Technophobe or technophile? We need more conversation about digital transformation

A Sting Exclusive: “Leading by example! EU must push for UN deal to avoid dangerous climate change”, European Parliament Vice-President Ulrike Lunacek cries out from Brussels

EP’s MFF negotiators disappointed by failure of EU budget summit

State aid: Commission approves German scheme for very high capacity broadband networks in Bavaria

Cyprus Parliament says no to blackmail

World must do more to tackle ‘shadowy’ mercenary activities undermining stability in Africa, says UN chief

Germany to re-invent its security position in Europe and a chaotic world

Samsung’s profits fall as cheaper smartphones gain market share

The 5 mistakes we’re making in the fight against global energy poverty

Denouncing attacks against Baghdad protesters, UN warns ‘violence risks placing Iraq on dangerous trajectory’

B-I-R-D: 4 digital technologies that can help supply chains take flight

Tackling ‘deeply worrying’ global rise in anti-Semitism is a job for all societies everywhere, says UN chief

Unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Mali revealed in new report

‘Disaster resilient’ farming reduces agriculture risks, yields economic gains, says new UN agriculture agency report

5 reasons why reading books is good for you

Knowledge management and entrepreneurship: short term vs. long term perspective

‘No justification’ for attacks against civilians, UN envoy says on mounting cross-border violence in Gaza

Why education and accountability are important for developing countries?

Further reforms can foster more inclusive labour markets in The Netherlands

The world’s economy is only 9% circular. We must be bolder about saving resources

US migrant children policy reversal, still ‘fails’ thousands of detained youngsters: UN rights experts

The price of centralization of human resources for health

Reparations for sexual violence in conflict – ‘what survivors want most, yet receive least’

EU’s new environmental policy on biofuels impacts both the environment and the European citizen

How to rebuild trust and integrity in South Africa

Efforts to save the planet must start with the Antarctic

MEPs demand an end to migrant deaths across the Mediterranean Sea

Restore hope that peace will come to the Middle East, UN negotiator urges Security Council

Nauru President warns of possible climate change ‘economic Armageddon’

“We are in Europe, but not of it”, from Churchill to Cameron: British Exceptionalism now threatens the entire EU Edifice

Friday’s Daily Brief: human rights in Sudan, sombre anniversaries for Rwanda and Nigeria, and fears of ‘chaos’ in Libya

Here are three ways blockchain can change refugees’ lives

UN ‘comes together in sadness and solidarity’ to honour staff who died on board Ethiopian Airlines flight

Foreign investment to be screened to protect EU countries’ strategic interests

EU budget: Commission proposes €1.26 billion to reinforce the European Solidarity Corps

Davos participants call for digital trade deal

Are e-cigarettes as safe as they claim to be?

The world’s largest bus system is starting to go electric

A critical European young voice on Net Neutrality: the distance between Brussels and Washington

Coronavirus emergency: here’s what we know so far

At last Germany to negotiate the costs for a really cohesive Eurozone

MEPs want to ensure sufficient funding for Connecting Europe’s future

Amsterdam is getting a 3D-printed bridge

Economy and living standards of Gaza ‘eviscerated’ by crippling blockade – UN trade and development report

Governments must act to help struggling middle class

Will satellites destroy our view of space?

Commission refers Denmark to the Court for failing to fulfil its obligations in relation to the name “Feta”

A quarter of Americans have no retirement savings

As children freeze to death in Syria, aid officials call for major cross-border delivery boost

Combatting terrorism: Parliament sets out proposals for a new EU strategy

London to say hello or goodbye to Brussels this week

A Sting Exclusive: “Cybersecurity: Why consumer products must be looked at urgently”, by BEUC’s Deputy Director General

The secret to Bangladesh’s economic success? The Sheikh Hasina factor

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s