February 12, 2013

Rules for the masses, but not for the bureaucratic elite

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business, Europe, Law — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:33

The European Union’s rules on gender equality appear to apply to everything in the EU except the EU’s own bureaucracy:

Part of the aggrandised myth EU institutions like to propagate about themselves is that they are pioneers in promoting tolerance, gender equality, and diversity in the workplace. Read the promotional literature and you will find effusive descriptions of liberal workplace revolutions and the achievements of Soviet-style five-year plans. Yet, like the Soviet Union, there is an embarrassing mismatch between the trumpeted idealism and the reality.

Since its creation in 1967, DG Employment (Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion at the European Commission) has nominally been responsible for fair employment conditions in the European Union. Rising levels of workplace equality in member states (for which DG Employment take an undue amount of credit) are woefully incongruous with the situation of EU civil servants. Women occupy 19 per cent of senior management positions; compare this with the often decried 35.9 per cent of women in the top levels of the UK civil service.

Yet it is figures like the UK civil service’s that prompt EU proposals on affirmative action. One set of proposals has recently been discussed in the European parliament, for example, which if passed will introduce gratuitous and complicated legislation across the continent. That bureaucracy breeds bureaucracy is unsurprising, but it is hard to take seriously calls for equality from an institution endemically opposed to the concept.

The only European agency where women in management positions outnumber men is in the Institute for Gender Equality (the administration is 95 per cent female). Incontrovertibly, out of all the agencies, this is the one with the strongest prerogative for tackling equality in its workforce. But the message is clear: shout about equality to the world and create a dummy institute to anyone holding a mirror up to the EU bureaucracy itself. So far, the commission is on its fifth ‘action programme’ to tackle inequality within its institutions, taking the same form as every one that has come before it; vague guidelines forgotten until lobby group pressure becomes too annoying.

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