The emancipation of women in the Netherlands has come to a standstill and is failing to meet the government's targets, the Social and Cultural Planning Bureau (SCP) said on Monday. The government set specific targets that relate to employment rates and economic independence three years ago. But the SCP said in its Emancipation Monitor 2004 report that the goals appear to be entirely unattainable by the target year 2010. In particular, the Social Affairs Ministry aimed to have 65 percent of women employed by 2010, but there were just 55 percent of women working outside the home in 2003. The employment of women is growing by just 1 percent each year.

The SCP attributed much of the failings to the current economic slowdown. But it also asserted that the struggling economy could not fully explain the nation's emancipation problems, newspaper NRC reported. This absence of economic factors was highlighted by the fact women are well represented in industry sectors that are less vulnerable to the economic climate, such as the education and healthcare sectors. Instead, the bureau claimed the failing is due to weak government policy. It asserted further that the cabinet had set clear targets, but was inadequately informing relevant groups and employers on how to attain them.

The Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD and Democrat D66 coalition cabinet is the first in decades which does not have a separate minister responsible for emancipation. Minister Aart Jan de Geus combines the emancipation role with his duties as the Social Affairs minister. De Geus has in the past said he can combine the two responsibilities because the process of emancipation of Dutch native women is almost complete, and should be finished by 2007. But the SCP dismissed the minister's comment and De Geus has also withdrawn his statement. "It is expected that women will leave the labour market earlier or work less and men will work more," the SCP and co-authoring authority the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) said.

The main target of the Dutch government for almost 20 years has been to create a society which gives both and men and women the chance of economic independence. Men and women must be equal in rights, opportunities, liberties and social responsibilities. Economic independence is considered the foundation of equality. A person is deemed economically independent if they work and earn at least 70 percent of the Dutch minimum income, NRC reported.

In 2003, some 41 percent of women aged between 15 and 65 were economically independent, while the target figure was 44 percent. The target for 2010 is 60 percent, but the SCP is doubtful of the chances of meeting that target. It is has also proven difficult to reach the objectives set for the desired percentage of women occupying higher functions in business. The representation of Dutch women politicians in the European Parliament is the only area currently on schedule. The SCP blamed the traditional opinions of employers for much of the problems. It said employers are much more conservative than the population as a whole in relation to the combination of work and family care and part-time managers.

It was initially hoped that the life savings scheme levensloop would assist the combination of work and family care, but the SCP expects it will only be used to take early retirement. The SCP report also said the cabinet's plans to extend the working week will have a negative impact on emancipation because it will make the combination of work and family care more difficult.


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