Thursday, March 30, 2023

Energy poverty: one more dimension of inequality for women

Energy poverty affects 125 million people in the European Union, mostly women and single mothers who, in the current context of crisis, find it more difficult than men to pay high energy bills.

The causes that explain this are diverse, but they are mainly focused on two structural factors: lower incomes -women earn an average of 13% less per hour than men- and the prevalence of more precarious, part-time and unpaid jobs. , as is the case of domestic work.

This was stated by different experts who participated in a debate organized this week by the European Parliament (EP) on the occasion of International Women’s Day, on March 8.

Specifically, data from the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) show that difficulties in paying energy bills affect almost half of mothers in single-parent families (44%). and a third of single women (31%).

Impact of the energy crisis on women

Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, high inflation – 8.5% in the euro area according to the latest data for February – has worsened the economic situation of many people, who have seen their purchasing power diminish and have experienced difficulties heating their homes.

The European Union (EU) faces the “growing, persistent and daunting challenge” of energy poverty, warned the MEP and president of the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality committee of the European Parliament, Robert Biedrón, during the debate.

“This cost-of-living crisis has a negative impact on the economic and social inclusion of women, on their health, on the risk of domestic violence and on their fundamental rights,” she said.

The crises mainly affect people at risk of poverty and social exclusion, since they have less margin to face price increases, said the MEP from the Green group, Alice Khunke, in an interview with EFE, while remarking that, Within this vulnerable group, women are the majority.

Women and girls endure energy poverty in a “disproportionate” way, as they suffer the consequences of unequal access to energy sources, the director of UN Women, Laurence Gillois, warned in the Eurochamber.

“The high costs of oil and gas have had destructive effects on women’s and girls’ ability to purchase energy, and the global gender impact has been affected with regard to access to food and nutrition,” she explained.

This crisis also has another side: the economic impact of the increase in the cost of energy reduces the purchasing power of women, which has a direct effect on their psychological and physical health.

This increases the risk that women may suffer gender violence, warned Biedrón.

“Low-income women have fewer resources to defend themselves against violence from their partners because they are financially dependent on them,” she said.

Women as agents of change

The transition towards sustainable energy sources is not only fundamental for the mitigation of climate change and for environmental conservation, but this, said the UN representative, offers “opportunities for the resilience of women.”

“Women and girls are change agents as consumers, producers, innovators and decision makers in the energy sector,” Gillois advocated.

She added: “A just transition can only be achieved through the full and equal participation, leadership and decision-making of women and girls, and this requires ensuring that the voices of women and girls are heard. in all perspectives.

However, the current reality is that only 32% of workers in the field of renewable energy are women and they are concentrated in low-paid positions, lamented Gillois.

The Green MEP, Khunke, explained to EFE that the “absolute majority of businessmen in these industries are men.”

“At the same time, we know that the brightest people at universities in the EU are women. We know that those who obtain the best results in university are women,” said Khinke, which is why she advocated the creation of programs focused on young girls to ensure that they are part of the “energy revolution that will take place.”


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