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Women step up demands for equality

The Berne Declaration is one of 30 NGOs pressing for greater sex equality

(swissinfo.ch)

Swiss women's groups have been using International Woman's Day to demand greater equality. They called for greater representation in business and politics, and protested against government plans to raise the retirement age.

Women gathered outside the parliament's special spring session in Lugano to protest at the government's plans to raise the retirement age to 65 and to reduce widows' pensions.

The government and parliament hope to use the funds to finance a flexible retirement plan for men and women starting at the age of 62.

There were also protests in Geneva and Bern. The demonstrations come after non-government organisations and women's groups called on the government to enact measures to give better protection to women both professionally and in their private lives.

The agencies - including the Berne Declaration - said equality should be the guiding principle in all commercial and political decisions.

"It is high time that the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs did something to promote equality between men and women in the economic field," said Marianne Hochuli of the Declaration of Berne.

Hochuli said that where foreign trade issues were concerned, the secretariat should pay particular attention to the position of women in other countries, where they often have few rights.

She voiced concern over the effect on women of attempts by the World Trade Organisation to liberalise world trade and pointed to the fact that women account for 80 per cent of the world's poorest people.

Before embarking on a further liberalisation of trade, research had to be done into what effects it would have, particularly on women, Hochuli said.

In Switzerland, according to the latest figures, women now occupy around 12 per cent of senior positions in the civil service. The government hopes that this figure will rise to 17 per cent by the end of 2003.

Patricia Schulz, the head of the Federal Office for Equality, said representation of women in the state administration had increased by three per cent between 1996 and 1999 and now stood at around 23 per cent.

She said that although not as high as it should be, the percentage of women in the public sector was still better than their representation in the private economy.

swissinfo with agencies


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