SPAIN PRESENTS THIRD, FOURTH PERIODIC REPORTS ON COMPLIANCE WITH WOMEN'S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION CONVENTION

17 June 1999
WOM/1138

SPAIN PRESENTS THIRD, FOURTH PERIODIC REPORTS ON COMPLIANCE WITH WOMEN'S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION CONVENTION

17 June 1999


Press Release
WOM/1138


SPAIN PRESENTS THIRD, FOURTH PERIODIC REPORTS ON COMPLIANCE WITH WOMEN'S ANTI-DISCRIMINATION CONVENTION

19990617

Report Notes Progress, but Says Inequalities Persist in Decision-Making; Experts Question Promotion of Part-Time Work for Women, Situation of Elderly

While the "glass ceiling" was beginning to crack in Spain, traditional stereotypes continued to classify certain professions and fields of study as feminine, said Concepcion Dancausa, Director of the Spanish Women's Institute, this morning, as she presented her country's third and fourth periodic reports on efforts to comply with the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

Speaking to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women -- the 23-member treaty-monitoring body -- Ms. Dancausa said that a number of efforts had been taken by Spain to increase equality and eliminate discrimination, including changes in the production of teaching materials and in curricula to eliminate discriminatory messages. Women with professional training, as well as university and post-graduate degrees had increased. However, the selection of professions continued to be based on stereotypes. Hairdressing and health, for example, were considered to be feminine professions and women continued to be a minority in technical careers.

Turning to the workplace, she said that market conditions had a more negative impact on women than men. Women's participation in the workplace had been a priority, and increasing economic activity and creating more jobs was particulary important. Measures taken included: job training and courses; technical and financial assistance for women in enterprise; agreements with banks to give concessionary credit for women wanting to start their own businesses; and new work regulations and incentives for better and equal work conditions for part-time workers.

While data on education and employment clearly reflected progress, she said that clear inequalities existed regarding decision-making. The participation of women in public life was expanding, but it was still qualitatively and quantitatively imbalanced. Cultural traditions remained

Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 1a - Press Release WOM/1138 436th Meeting (AM) 17 June 1999

strong and, therefore, men kept the positions of greater power and decision- making for themselves. Also, while women had increased their presence in the legal system, there were still no women on the Supreme Court. Efforts had also been taken to address the stereotypical depictions of women in the mass media.

Also addressing the Committee, Inocencio F. Arias, the Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations, said the 1978 Constitution acknowledged equality, freedom, justice and political pluralism. At the same time, the women's Convention was the benchmark for Spain's nation-wide equality norms. Since 1980, when the country launched the process which led to the Convention's ratification, it had been moving forward to promote equality of opportunity for men and women alike.

Following the presentation, a number of experts said that Spain had done much to protect and promote women's rights and it had shown a strong political will to change and improve the situation of its women. However, some experts expressed concern over the policy of promoting part-time work for women. That was not such a good idea in a country that already had more women than men involved in part-time work, they said. Measures, such as the extension of maternity leave, had good short-term effects, but were not necessarily conducive to women's equality. Spain had highly educated women, who were unable to reach the positions that they deserved.

Another expert said the report lacked information concerning indirect discrimination against elderly women. A number of factors pointed to the fact that elderly women would be disproportionately represented among the most disadvantaged groups. She added that there was a gap in pay between men and women, which meant that women were less likely to save for their retirement. Also, because of their longer life span, women were more likely to suffer from debilitating conditions. Further, there was the problem of increased violence and abuse of the elderly, particularly women, due to the stress of coping for them.

The Committee will meet again at 3 p.m. today to continue its consideration of Spain's compliance with the Convention.

Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee - 2 - Press Release WOM/1138 436th Meeting (AM) 17 June 1999

Committee Work Programme

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met this morning to begin considering the third and fourth periodic reports of Spain (documents CEDAW/C/ESP/3 and 4), submitted under article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. That article provides for States parties to submit reports on legislative, judicial, administrative and other measures adopted to give effect to the provisions of the Convention, which Spain ratified in 1983. (For background on the current session, see Press Release WOM/1125 of 4 June).

The third report, covering the period from 1991 to 1995, states that the basic point of reference for the equality of men and women is the 1978 Constitution. In 1983, the Institute for Women's Issues -- an independent body which promotes and fosters conditions for the equality of both sexes in society and the participation by women in political, cultural, economic and social life -- was set up. The Institute has developed proposals and policies on equality through the Plans of Action for Equal Opportunities for Men and Women, which all ministerial departments undertake to implement. In 1992, the Institute published the "Code for Women", containing the legislation in force as of June 1991.

The Institute has two governing bodies -- the Governing Council and the Directorate-General. The Council is responsible for implementing the coordinated policy of the different Ministries concerning women's affairs, considering the objectives to be achieved and approving the annual performance plan, the annual report on management and operation, and the preliminary budget estimates and investments. The Directorate-General is responsible for representing and running the Institute for Women's Issues.

Spain is organized territorially into municipalities, provinces and autonomous communities, all of which enjoy self-government for the management of their respective interests, according to the report. All the autonomous communities have some public body responsible for ensuring that all forms of discrimination are eliminated, and for taking the required steps to bring about real equality in all areas of public, economic, cultural and social life. In addition, they have under way a large number of affirmative action programmes directed towards women, to encourage employment and training.

There were a greater number of women at the most senior levels of the State administration between 1995 and 1996, as a result of the establishment of new under-secretariats. The distribution of women at the different ministries showed that some sexist patterns do exist. There were more women at the Ministries of Social Affairs, Culture, Relations with Parliament, and Education and Science, while there were fewer (under 10 per cent) at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Defence, and Public Works and Transport. While

women were very poorly represented in trade unions, their participation in women's associations had increased.

It is with regard to reform in the social code that most changes or innovations designed to ensure equality of opportunities for women had been introduced. One reason for that was because as a member of the European Union, it has an obligation to incorporate Community law into its domestic law.

Spain's educational system is based on the principle of equal opportunity, and public education is compulsory, coeducational and free for children aged 6 to 16. Over 90 per cent of the students enroled in what customarily have been deemed "women's" fields -- domestic science, fashion and tailoring and hairdressing -- are women. Although women continue to be represented in health care, the number of women graduating in the field declined from 1991 to 1993.

The changing rates of economic activity reflect a slight upward trend for women between 1991 and 1995. The unemployment rates for women are always higher than for men, but there was an upward trend in both groups between 1991 and 1995. The report states that it is important to take into account the nature of the employment -- the conditions of work and whether it is permanent or temporary. The figures show that more women are involved in temporary employment.

In Spain, women have access to health-care services on the same basis as men. The activities of the bodies responsible for ensuring equal opportunities for women, especially the Institute, have been aimed at: improving the dissemination of specific information for women in the area of health; improving the awareness and training of health care professionals; and strengthening institutional coordination mechanisms through conventions and modifications of conventions.

In October 1994, a genuine debate on the status of Spanish women in rural life was begun. Various institutions and social groups were called on to help achieve the targeted changes. An Order of 20 January 1995 announced the funding of proposals by the National Institute of Agrarian Reform and Development for training to be provided by non-profit organizations. That Order was instrumental in setting up training courses, some of them exclusively for women. Associations which received funds included the Association of Rural Women and Families and the National Federation of Rural Women.

According to the fourth report, covering the period from 1996 to 1998, the Third Plan of Action for Equal Opportunities (1997-2000) introduced integrated measures between all State bodies, the autonomous communities and civil society. Equality of opportunity between men and women is viewed from a gender-mainstreaming perspective in which the entire society is involved and given responsibility for achieving equality, thus ensuring that equality is not seen exclusively as a women's problem.

The central themes of the Plan are: the development of specific measures to combat gender-based discrimination and to increase women's participation in all aspects of society; the development of the principle of cross-cutting, which ensures that every activity involves the protection and guarantee of the principle of equal treatment, both in Spain and in comprehensive activities of cooperation with other governments; and the incorporation of a social perspective into Government policies.

According to the most recent census (1991), women make up 51 per cent of the population and account for the majority of the population over the age of 40. The birth rate continues to decline and women are more numerous in urban areas than in rural areas. Women marry at a younger age than men, and since the adoption of the Divorce Act in July 1981, there has been an increase in separation and divorce decrees. Also, 86.85 per cent of single-parent families are headed by women.

As time passes, women and men are moving closer to an equal distribution of their time, it continues. In 1993, there was a considerable increase in men's participation in household tasks and a simultaneous decrease in the differences between the amount of time spent on study and gainful employment by men and women.

Women constitute 71.26 per cent of Spain's illiterate population, the report continues. At the same time, the majority of university students are women, although there are variations by type of programme at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Women are in the majority in the health sciences, humanities, and law and social sciences, but are in the minority in the technical fields and experimental sciences. Although women make up the majority of university students, they account for only 46.82 per cent of doctoral candidates. They account for the majority of teachers at all levels. The report states that despite a recent increase in the number of women on the job market, their participation remains inadequate. The female employment rate has risen and is currently 37.2 per cent, which is still 26.18 per cent less than that of men. Many women leave the job market after the age of 30. Also, the higher the level of education of Spanish women, the higher their rate of employment. The gap between female and male employment rates is smallest in the service sector, where 80 per cent of Spanish women work. More women work in the public sector than in the private, and on average, women earn about 30 per cent less than men.

Women's life expectancy is currently 81 years as compared to 73 years for men, the report continues. Approximately 50 per cent of women consume alcohol to some extent, but only 0.2 per cent can be characterized as heavy or excessive drinkers. Women make up 16.17 per cent of all persons treated for drug addiction, and the majority of them are addicted to heroin. Most women admitted for treatment are between the ages of 20 and 34. Women account for 18 per cent of those diagnosed with AIDS.

Women make up less than 50 per cent of the membership of political parties, states the report. While women's political participation has been increasing progressively, it is still insufficient at the international, State and local levels.

Basic statistics show that during the period covered by the fourth report, there has been a major increase in budgetary, human and material resources to ensure equality of opportunity between men and women in Spain, in fulfilment of the commitments made pursuant to the Convention.

Introduction of Country Report

INOCENCIO F. ARIAS, the Permanent Representative of Spain, introduced the report of his country. He said that Spain's 1978 Constitution served as the framework for all judicial actions in the country. The text began by acknowledging the principle of equality, along with those of freedom, justice and political pluralism. It enshrined equality under the law for all Spaniards, as well as the responsibilities of the authorities to ensure that equality was real. It stated that fundamental freedoms and rights had to be interpreted in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the other international human rights instruments ratified by Spain.

The women's Convention was the benchmark for Spain's nation-wide equality norms, he said. Since 1980, when the country launched the process which led to ratification of the Convention, it had been moving forward to promote equality of opportunity for men and women alike. The Government's efforts were reflected in legislative reform and in commitments it had assumed in favour of equality.

During the period covered by the reports, there had been a number of global conferences of relevance to equality, which along with regional meetings had been a powerful spur to Government efforts, he continued. The Vienna World Conference on Human Rights, the Cairo World Conference on Population and Development, and the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women were all important events and had decisive impacts on achieving greater gender mainstreaming in Spain's policies and platforms. The plans of action adopted at those conferences had been benchmarks of Spain's nation-wide equality programmes. The Third National Plan for Equality marked the most recent link in that ongoing process.

CONCEPCION DANCAUSA, Director of the Spanish Women's Institute, the body with ultimate responsibility for promoting equal opportunities in Spain, said that information in her report was provided from many sources, including members of civil society. The Convention was the most important instrument for promoting women's rights and freedoms. A series of legal reforms had been taken in relation to the Convention to guarantee women's freedom. One of the ultimate objectives of the Women's Institute was to ensure maximum consistency in implementing such reforms and policies for women.

Another major function of the Institute was to establish relations with non-governmental organizations and to promote women's involvement in public life, she said. Achieving equality between men and women required a number of steps in different arenas and it required both structural and social changes. Her presentation would focus on her country's efforts in the areas of education, jobs, decision-making and violence against women.

Without question, education and bringing more women into academia had been a priority in Spain's equality efforts, she continued. Education was a starting point for success in society and Spain's Constitution recognized the right to education as a fundamental right. In the production of teaching materials, efforts had been made to eliminate all stereotypes. Equality for the sexes and the recognition of women's place in society had been the objectives of education programmes. Such programmes had allowed women to expand their career options. Also, the dictionary used in Spain had been revised to eliminate all discriminatory language.

Because of such measures, she added, there had been a significant change in the educational arena. For example, illiteracy had decreased since 1990 and the number of people with secondary education had increased. From 1990 to 1998, the number of women with professional training, as well as with university and post-graduate degrees, had increased.

Despite those efforts, the selection of professions had continued to be based on stereotypes, she said. Professions such as hairdressing and health had been more feminized over the years, while men tended to dominate such areas as woodworking and metalwork. Women continued to be a minority in technical careers, although there had been increases in women in those areas. In general, there had been improvements in the educational arena for women.

Turning to the workplace, she said that market conditions had a more negative impact on women than men. Women's participation in the workplace had been one of the priorities of the second and third national plans. Particulary important was working out a nationwide plan to increase economic activity and create more jobs. Job training and courses to facilitate women gaining employment were being provided. Companies were providing technical and financial assistance for women in enterprise, from which over 20,000 women had benefitted in recent years. There had also been agreements with the Bank of Spain to give concessionary credit for women wanting to start their own businesses.

Recent measures in the field of employment included new work regulations and incentives for better and equal work conditions for part-time workers, she continued. There had also been the adoption of benefits for companies that hired women in jobs where they were poorly represented, and a draft law to reconcile family obligations with job obligations. In addition, no one could be fired for reasons of pregnancy and new grants had been established under the umbrella of social security for pregnancy.

In the last two years, there had been a decline in the birth rate of girl children, she continued. The society was going through an economic revolution. The great majority of female workers were in the service sector, and women's participation in the agricultural sector had declined. In 1990, women constituted 30 per cent of the total of full-time workers.

Data on education and employment clearly reflected progress, she said. However, decision-making was an area that showed clear inequality. The participation of women in public life was expanding, but it was still qualitatively and quantitatively imbalanced. Cultural traditions remained strong and therefore, men kept the positions of greater power and decision- making for themselves. There had been studies, whose results had been distributed to make people aware of the situation, as well as the dissemination of data on women in decision-making positions. Also, there had recently been a press campaign, under the slogan "don't get left behind", to encourage greater women's participation in public life. Further, there were programmes to give women the training and skills needed to access posts of higher power and decision-making.

With regard to women's participation in politics, she said that in the European Parliament, nine out of the 60 seats allotted to Spain were occupied by women. The presence of women in high posts in administration had increased. In 1998, 19 per cent of higher posts were occupied by women. The data concerning the civil service also showed an increase of women -- in 1990, 35 per cent and in 1998, 45 per cent. While women had increased their presence in the legal system, there were still no women on the Supreme Court. Women teachers were more heavily represented in the lower levels of education, rather than at the university level, and that was one of the areas in which Spanish women were having great difficulties advancing. The Government had tried to do away with the existing "glass ceiling", which had now started to crack. Also, important steps had been taken in the area of violence against women. The Government had taken another look at trafficking in women and sexual harassment and it had approved an action plan against domestic violence in 1998. There had been an increase in the reporting of mistreatment and abuse over the past few years. On the topic of media depictions of women, she said the media tended to give a negative picture of women's roles in society based on stereotypes. A special council had been set up to deal with the image of women in the media and why it depicted women in certain ways. In relation to rural women, she said the exploitation of women was much worse in such areas. There was also a lack of training for rural women and discrimination was greater. A programme in the Ministry of Agriculture had been implemented to help rural women. Among its efforts, there was a system to promote the production of products made totally by women.

She said the period from 1990 to 1998 was a time of great achievements for women's equality. That, however, did not mean equality had been achieved. There was still much to be done. There was a need for changes in the mindset of society. Improvements were also needed in the field of education and in professions that were still dominated by men. In many cases, women were paid just 75 per cent of what men were paid for the same job. Also women were rarely represented in higher posts of responsibility. Inequality was not just a women's problem, it was a social problem. Guaranteeing true equality was a goal that had to be achieved for a democratic and equitable society.

Expert Comments

The Chairperson of the Committee, AIDA GONZALES of Mexico, said the presentation improved on the information already provided to the community on the status of women in Spain and how the role of women had changed over time. However, it would have been a good idea to have the information in languages other than Spanish. Many members would have found it extremely useful to follow the presentation in a language readily accessible to them. She then opened the floor to expert comments.

A number of experts complimented Spain on its presentation and said that Spain had demonstrated its commitment to ensuring that the articles of the Convention were implemented. It had adopted a gender-mainstreaming perspective in its national policies and programmes. Spain had also addressed the problem of cultural stereotypes and the power of the mass media to affect public opinion.

One expert pointed out that between the third and fourth reports, the Government in Spain changed. She asked if the change in Government had also led to a change in the policies in the Women's Institute? She also asked about the relationship between the Institute and the other bodies dedicated to equality and rights in Spain. She added that it seemed as if Spain had stressed the role of women in small businesses and part-time work. Also, while women had gained economic power, there were still certain fields dominated by men and, in decision-making posts, there were still very few women.

Another expert said that Spain's programmes for women were highly decentralized, which was a very positive thing, because policies that affected women varied among different sectors. Were communities that spoke languages other than Spanish given education in their own language? she asked.

An expert said that Spain had done much to protect and promote women's rights. It had shown a strong political will to change and improve the situation of its women. The continuation of stereotypical roles and attitudes was, however, worrying. Spain had stated in its answers to questions posed by the pre-sessional working group that now people tended to agree more with the symmetrical family model -- in which husbands both work outside and share household chores equally -- than they had before. At the same time, it stated that the reality was not necessarily reflective of that statement. So, it seemed that people's rhetoric had changed more than their practice. The reality indicated a situation where women were doubly burdened and men's roles remained unchanged.

In that context, she continued, she was more concerned about the policy of promoting part-time work for women. That was not such a good idea in a country that already had more women than men involved in part-time work. Measures, such as the extension of maternity leave, had good short-term effects, but were not necessarily conducive to women's equality. Spain had highly educated women, who were unable to reach the positions that they deserved.

In another answer, it had been stated that women abandoned the idea of promotion and limited their professional experience to what they had achieved by the age of 40 or 45, she said. That was worrisome to her, because it indicated fatigue and despair on the part of women, which constituted a form of indirect discrimination. Policies to actively attack those problems were needed. She asked if there had been studies into what part of home responsibilities women believed most held them back. Had Spain tried creative measures to provide special support for women, such as integrating the elderly population into day care or home management responsibilities? she asked.

Further, considering that Spain had a high standard of living, she wanted to know the extent of use of domestic labour. Had there been studies on the relationship between the presence of women in professional careers and the use domestic workers? she asked. While Spain had done much to advance the status of its women, it needed to look at and address the remaining areas with even more vigour.

Another expert said the report had demonstrated how much more refined Spain's policies and legislative reform had been since its first report. It also demonstrated that the Government had reached a stage where the easy work had been done and what remained was achieving real equality. Spain was recognized as a leader among developed countries in achieving equality between women and men. The trends in discrimination that it identified had a major impact on other States parties to the Convention.

There had not been much information on the question of indirect discrimination against elderly women in the report, she said. A number of factors pointed to the fact that elderly women would be disproportionately represented among the most disadvantaged groups. Women lived longer than men and were much more likely to be widowed. There was higher illiteracy among women, and that was likely to be among older women, since younger women were more educated. The illiteracy among older women meant that they were less likely to be able to support themselves.

There were also employment indicators, such as the gap in pay between men and women, which meant that women were less likely to save for their retirement. Women were more likely to be involved in part-time work and family care, all of which meant less money. The lower birth rate, coupled with high unemployment, meant a reduced tax base to fund pensions for the elderly. Also, because of their longer life span, they were more likely to suffer from debilitating health conditions. Further, there was the problem of increased violence and abuse of the elderly, particularly women, due to the stress of coping for them.

Had the Government identified a present or emerging problem in that regard? she asked. Had it established programmes of research or developed a coordinated policy to tackle the issue? Would the next plan of action for women feature ways to avoid discrimination of the elderly?

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For information media. Not an official record.