In this difficult period of austerity, it is with indignation that we observe the worsening standards of living for women on our continent. In many European countries, the economic crisis has been used to concentrate wealth and power in the hands of the few, overexploiting the workforce, limiting democratic practices, repressing social and citizens’ movements, and increasing hate and divisions between different sectors of the population.

We demand decent lives in which people are the central focus of life, lives that are at risk because of the austerity policies driven by the financial markets that push States to rescue banks when the duty of governments is, instead, to rescue the people.

Pan European Trade union women leaders meeting in Budapest on 8 November 2012, gathered at the third Women’s Conference of the Pan-European Regional Council, representing 89 trade unions from 43 countries, call on world and European leaders NOT to forget the plight of women when formulating austerity measures to tackle the world financial and economic crisis.

WE CHALLENGE the assumption that the consequences of this global financial crisis is gender neutral, when history shows that the most vulnerable groups are women, migrants, children and old people. We see that governmental cuts in many countries rise up to unacceptable level. They are not a solution to the crisis and only push a growing number of citizens deeper into poverty. Women, being both providers and beneficiaries of public services are affected most.

WE WARN European leaders of the risk of not focusing enough on the gender impact of the ongoing crisis, where many women are facing insecurity and fear, increasing inequality and poverty – particularly against the background of spiralling loss of working places and access to public services.

WE CALL ON world leaders, governments and European institutions:

• to take urgent action to target immediate measures to prevent women and families falling deeper into poverty;

• to reaffirm the commitment to create healthy economies and just and equal communities through strategies for full and productive employment, including effective and comprehensive reform of the international monetary and financial systems;

• to design macro-economic policies and industrial policies that promote the creation of productive and decent employment, and to enact policies and actions promoting decent employment of young women and men;

• to end de facto discrimination of young women and men in the labour market, to promote stable and direct employment relationships, to promote collective bargaining to improve the position and protection of youth in the labour market, to promote social protection floors that protect youth, to fight social exclusion of young people and to enable young women and men to make their career, family and life planning;

• to ensure that the priorities of the international financial institutions incorporate social and environmental concerns; particularly, loan and debt conditions, which force countries to deregulate labour markets, reduce public spending and privatise public services, must be stopped, warning that the mounting economic and political chaos is taking its toll on the real economy with sharply falling employment, which is “sending” millions of women “ back home”;

• to affirm that every woman has the right to work, to good working conditions, pay equity and to sufficient income for her basic economic, social and family needs—rights that should be enforced by providing adequate living wages; including maternity rights at the highest possible level;

• to respect workers’ freedom to form and join trade unions and bargain collectively, without threats and fear, with gender mainstreaming of the bargaining agenda and gender parity in representation;

• to stop attempts to increase retirement age for men and women without proper social consultations and without setting proper measures to secure jobs and social protection. Considering present situation on the labour market any increase without such measures will only rise poverty of 50+ generation;

• to strengthen and broaden the social safety net protection by ensuring access to social security, pensions, unemployment benefits, maternity protection, and quality health care for all, and access to public services and measures which would enable reconciliation of work, family and private life;

• to create binding mechanisms for the promotion and enforcement of decent work, including core labour and environmental standards in trade agreements.

• to invest in education, training, skills, innovation and in-work programmes, with a special focus on unemployed young women and men, to create the necessary mechanisms to fight against gender barriers in youth access to education and decent working places;

• to take into consideration the increasing violence in crisis-ridden societies and to find the necessary methods to strive together with the social partners for the elimination of all the various forms of violence against women

The time has come to define a new model where people and planet will be more important than profit.