Irish and Italians 'are the sexists of Europe'

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THE IRISH and Italians emerge as the sexists of Europe in research published today by the Department of Employment.

Just over half the respondents in both those countries questioned by researchers from the European Commission said they had less confidence in women doing jobs than men.

The Danes and Dutch, by contrast, were the most egalitarian, while the French had lost their prejudices and were ahead of the British in regarding women as equals of men.

The traditional view of the man as breadwinner and woman as home-maker was most prevalent in Luxembourg, Germany and Ireland. A more equal approach to family life, with men and women having jobs and sharing household tasks, was viewed more favourably in Denmark and Britain.

Kathleen Kiernan, research director of the Family Policy Studies Centre, said there had been progress towards equality over the past 15 years but the prospects for shared domestic responsibilities were bleak.

'Bridging the divide between men and women to create a truly equitable public and private world is likely to take a very long time. I for one am not optimistic about it being in place by the year 2001,' she says in the latest edition of Employment Gazette.

Women have become more active in the workforces of all European countries, with Denmark and Britain having the largest proportions of women at work.

The growth in employment has seen a reduction in stereotyping and an increase in the numbers who express equal confidence in men and women doing the same job.

Between the sexes, those having faith in male and female members of parliament grew within the European Community between 1975 and 1987. Danish confidence went up from 70 per cent to 86 per cent, British by 53 to 75 per cent and Italian from 38 to 59 per cent.

But the research highlighted that many still believed jobs could be done better by men. Across the 12 EC member states only 64 per cent had the same confidence in women to do the jobs of bus or train driver, surgeon, barrister and MP.

'There is little variation in response across occupations. This suggests that it is not particular occupations, per se, that matter but the general position of women in society,' Ms Kiernan says.

Only 51 per cent of the Irish and 56 per cent of those in Italy, Greece and Luxembourg expressed equal confidence, compared with 84 per cent in Denmark, 78 per cent in the Netherlands, 70 per cent in France and 68 per cent in Britain.

The research tried to get behind expressed attitudes to find out what went on in European homes. A 1990 Eurobarometer Survey, one of a series carried out by the European Commission, showed a growing acceptance of the need to share tasks in the home.

Across all countries, shopping was the only activity for which men were more likely to take responsibility (61 per cent). Washing-up was the next most frequent activity (41 per cent), followed by taking children to school (31 per cent).

Cooking, cleaning and dressing children were the least popular. Again, Danish and Dutch men were the most likely to be involved, with at least one in two performing some duties compared to one in five male Spaniards.

Ms Kiernan defines recent male domestic activity as 'helping' rather than 'sharing'.

'The pressure may be on for men to take their fair share of caring and domestic tasks but the pace of change to date can at best be described as leisurely,' she says.

----------------------------------------------------------------- PERCENTAGE HAVING EQUAL CONFIDENCE IN BOTH SEXES FOR VARIOUS OCCUPATIONS ----------------------------------------------------------------- Bus or Surgeon Barrister MP Average of 4 train driver ----------------------------------------------------------------- EC 12 total 63 64 63 67 64 Denmark 86 85 82 86 84 Netherlands 75 83 75 79 78 France 77 70 70 68 70 United Kingdom 61 70 66 75 68 Belgium 67 66 64 67 66 Spain 56 65 69 67 64 Portugal 52 67 65 63 61 West Germany 57 55 59 64 58 Luxembourg 47 58 60 62 56 Greece 52 56 61 58 56 Italy 54 56 55 59 56 Ireland 43 51 50 61 51 ----------------------------------------------------------------- Source: Men and Women of Europe, 1987 Women of Europe, Supplement No 2, Commission of the European Communities. -----------------------------------------------------------------