AGRICULTURE

Economic and Legal Status of Women Crucial to Arresting Rural Depopulation – EU Report

Mairead McGuinness270 views
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“This new report recognises the need to incentivise women so that they have the economic ability to commit their futures to rural Ireland when that is where they want to be.” –  Mairead McGuinness. MEP and First Vice-President of the European Parliament

A new report just approved by the Agriculture and Women’s Rights Committees of the European Parliament has identified that women’s access to the labour market in rural areas could be the key to sustaining populations in these areas and should become a top priority in future rural development policies.

Mairead McGuinness, First Vice-President of the European Parliament and a member of the Agricultural Committee, says the area needs a firm policy focus.

“This new report recognises the need to incentivise women so that they have the economic ability to commit their futures to rural Ireland when that is where they want to be,” she said.

Between 2005 and 2010, 2.4 million, mostly small or family farms in the EU disappeared, severely impacting on rural regions in terms of rising unemployment and poverty and contributing to an ongoing depopulation of young people, especially women.

“The report says a greater work/life balance can be achieved through provision of services such as rural childcare arrangements, healthcare, educational facilities, care homes for elderly and dependent people, sickness and maternity replacement services, and cultural services,” Ms McGuinness said.

“Fellow MEPs recognise that women are very often the creative promoters of activities on or outside the farm and beyond the scope of agricultural production. Therefore, they impart genuine added value to such activities, creating much needed diversification in the rural economy to meet today’s needs,” she said.

“The role of women in securing family farms through their off-farm work and on-farm efforts is not fully recognised.”

In 2014 women were responsible for about 35pc of total working time in agriculture, carrying out 53.8pc of part-time work and 30.8pc of full-time work, thereby making a significant contribution to agricultural production. Yet, on average just 30pc of farms in the EU are managed by women.

“As we’ve seen in Ireland for too long, and is acknowledged in this report as a problem across Europe, much of the work on farms is carried out informally by spouses and other female family members and it’s often “invisible” because they’re not listed as legal farm owners. This prevents access to rights associated with this ownership, such as single payments, vine planting rights and income, and this places women farmers in a vulnerable position,” Ms McGuinness said.

Today’s report says the EU should promote women’s farm ownership or co-ownership, facilitate equitable access to land, ensure inheritance rights and facilitate access to credit. Gaining professional status and social security registration means women would also gain access to entitlements such as sick leave and maternity leave, as well as greater financial independence.

Ms McGuinness said she is aware of a growing movement in Ireland where women in agriculture are organising themselves in groups to support each other, which is a welcome development.

The text of the report, as approved by the Agriculture and Women’s Rights Committees with 56 votes in favour to five against, with three abstentions, is due to be scrutinised and endorsed by the Parliament as a whole, probably at its 3-6 April plenary session in Strasbourg.