State Secretary Leila Kostiainen: Family needs Partnership
More emphasis should be placed on the social value of active fatherhood in all European countries. Men should be encouraged to take parental leave and to participate in family life on a more equal basis. I find it alarming that according to the Eurobarometer poll in 2004, 84 per cent of men said that they had not taken parental leave or did not intend to do so, even when informed about their rights, said State Secretary Ms Leila Kostiainen when speaking in Vienna at the Conference on Demographic Challenges.
Increased gender equality will generate an adequate workforce for the labour market. In Finland, we have set the target at an employment rate of 75 per cent by 2011. One of the requirements for achieving this target is to have more women working outside the home than at present. In the face of dramatic demographic changes, it is important that we take steps to secure a large enough labour force in the future. We should develop flexible solutions in order to promote different ways of organising work and working time.
Gender equality in the labour market means equal opportunities for both genders for access to and participating in working life. This includes education, pay, career advancement and the opportunities to reconcile work and family. Gender equality in the labour market promotes equal parenting. Parents should have joint responsibility for the everyday life of their children. An equal opportunity for parenting is also important for the wellbeing of children.
Young adults should be able to start a family and have children without one parent being compelled to leave the workforce. It is vital to invest in the day care of children.
Finnish Presidency themes
During the Finnish Presidency, we will highlight the promotion of equal opportunities for men and women in families and working life. We will also continue the discussion the Austrian Presidency has now started concerning the position of children and families in European societies.
Europe is facing a major challenge in securing a large enough labour force as the dramatic demographic change becomes a reality. Therefore, we have two overarching themes on the Presidency agenda. They are maintaining work ability and increasing the attractiveness of working life.