Statement by Minister for Welfare of the Republic of Latvia Mr. Jānis Reirs at the general debate of the 61st session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (13-24 March 2017, New York)
It is my great honour to address the Commission on the Status of Women at its sixty-first session.
Latvia aligns itself with the statement made on behalf of the European Union.
Latvia welcomes the focus of this session on women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work. Full realization of women’s economic rights is essential for the achievement of commitments under the Beijing Platform for Action and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is important to deliver on our commitments now, because achieving gender equality in the areas of education, labour market participation and pay is essential for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
In the next four years national policy framework for gender equality will focus on three main directions of action:
Promotion of equal economic opportunities;
Reduction of gender differences in education and labour market and
Prevention of gender discrimination.
Equality between women and men is crucial from a human rights perspective, and Latvia believes that it makes sense also from an economic perspective. The progress in Latvia confirms it.
Latvia takes the first position among the European Union Member States as regards women in business management positions - at 53 percent. One third of all enterprises in Latvia belong to women. For almost a decade, women comprise 65 percent of the highest education graduates in Latvia, and 60 percent of doctoral students. Among the European countries, Latvia has good results of female participation in science and technology occupations – women accounted for more than a half of researchers across all sectors of economy. Education plays an important role to ensure equal rights and opportunities for both – women and men. The choice of education directly affects opportunities in the labour market, wage level, career development opportunities and quality of life throughout the life cycle. Latvia has undertaken a number of initiatives to address the prevailing gender differences in education and employment.
Support to balance work and family life is important to increase women’s participation in labour market. In particular, it concerns household and caring responsibilities. Latvia continues to work on flexible childcare arrangements to reflect the needs of working parents, especially women with nonstandard work schedules. We observe a positive trend towards greater men’s involvement in household and caring activities, as well as changes in attitudes about gender roles.
Violence is a major obstacle to the achievement of women’s economic empowerment. It restricts women from fulfilment of their rights and imposes heavy costs on women, households and societies. Combating violence against women and girls in all its forms is one of the main issues on our agenda. The Istanbul Convention of the Council of Europe has become a roadmap for Latvia. In 2016, I signed the Convention, on behalf of the Latvian Government, and we plan to ratify it by the end of 2018.
Latvia as a member of the UN Human Rights Council will continue to support initiatives aimed at ensuring the human rights and empowering women and girls.
In conclusion, let me recall that bringing equality between women and men into the centre of decision-making implies a re-evaluation of priorities. It can lead us towards equal and peaceful societies, inclusive economic growth and sustainable development.