Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner Mari-Liis Sepper discussed the problems in promotion of gender equality with Auditor General Alar Karis

Toomas Mattson | 8/12/2015 | 12:00 AM

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TALLINN, 12 August 2015 - Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner Mari-Liis Sepper visited Auditor General Alar Karis today to discuss the possibilities of the National Audit Office to audit the effectiveness of the gender equality policy of the state.

The Commissioner expressed her concerns about the fact that the promotion of gender equality has not gained much attention from the government in Estonia. There is still no development plan or action plan, and no clear national goals have been set that would make it possible to assess the effectiveness of this policy area. At the same time, Estonia is obliged to promote gender equality and equal treatment according to international conventions, European Union law and national law. “The activity and position of the Estonian government in the promotion of gender equality has not been systematic or consistent. In the context of the state budget, a backslide has occurred since 2004 when mentions of gender equality as an area are considered, said the Commissioner.

She also highlighted several specific areas where Estonia must deal strongly with the promotion of gender equality, such as women’s access to the decision-making level or the small number of female executives. She went on to confirm that this does not mean that qualification requirements would disappear and that organisations have to start promoting incompetent people just because they’re women. “However, it’s important to have people of both genders more or less equally represented in the bodies which make decisions that concern the general public. Social balance or reflection of the society’s gender composition among decision-making bodies adds legitimacy to their decisions,” stated the Commissioner.

During her meeting with the Auditor General, Mari-Liis Sepper highlighted economic inequality, gender pay gap and gender segregation in the labour market as the problems in the area of gender equality that require urgent action. The gender stereotypes that people have become accustomed to since childhood mean that men dominate in some areas of work and women in others. The Commissioner also pointed out the big difference in the average life span expectancy of men and women.

The Commissioner asked the Auditor General to consider possibilities for taking a look at the component of gender equality promotion in various audits.

Auditor General Alar Karis agreed that the attitude towards gender equality issues in Estonia should not be condescending and the problems must not be ignored, because they’re very real. “However, the steps planned at the level of state for improving the situation must be carefully thought through, as taking things too far could make the entire topic an object of ridicule,” said Karis. He added that the existence of a separate gender equality development plan could definitely help, but it would not guarantee that something would actually get done in this area and that any of the problems are solved.

Karis added that the National Audit Office does not interfere in politics and that setting clear development goals is clearly a political topic. However, the National Audit Office can audit the achievement of the goals. The Auditor General is of the opinion that the benefits the promotion of gender equality could have on Estonian economy can be analysed from different aspects. “The National Audit Office has studied issues concerning the labour market in many audits. The impact of gender segregation on the labour market certainly deserves attention,” he said.

The Auditor General emphasised that gender equality is another area where the solution of problems starts from upbringing and education, and considered it very important that the subject of gender equality is acknowledged when the content and development of education are planned. “The Ministry of Education and Research and Minister Jürgen Ligi can certainly help with the development of these ‘educational’ foundations,” said the Auditor General. He added that the gender division of school teachers needs some significant balancing.

The annual analysis of the Ministry of Education and Research published today also shows that women still comprise the majority of teaching staff at general education schools, vocational schools and nursery schools. The share of men among teachers in the last seven years has been 1% in pre-school child care establishments, 14% in general education schools and 35-36% in vocational schools. 2,041 men are working in general education schools in the 2014/2015 study year, which comprises 14.2% of all teachers in general education schools. The analysis also shows that extensive measures must be applied in order to achieve the goal of the lifelong learning strategy for 2020, which is that 25% of the teachers in general education schools are men.

The Commissioner kindly offered to present the analyses prepared in her area of work, both on the basis of Estonia and other countries, to the National Audit Office. The Auditor General thanked the Commissioner for the information she had provided and expressed his hopes that the National Audit Office can help to raise awareness of and solve these important problems that the Commissioner and her office are dealing with on a daily basis.

Adviser to the Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner Liivi Pehk and Adviser to the Auditor General Urmet Lee were also present at the meeting.


Toomas Mattson
Head of Communication Service, National Audit Office
640 0777
513 4900
[email protected]
[email protected]

  • Posted: 8/12/2015 12:00 AM
  • Last Update: 11/10/2015 5:19 PM
  • Last Review: 11/10/2015 5:19 PM

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