There are 22 countries associated with Western Europe which usually are referred to as the European Market Economy Countries. These include Iceland, all of the Scandinavian states, and Turkey, though the latter is, geographically, part of Asia. But both Iceland and Turkey are members of N.A.T.O. and are joined in various treaties with the others. This study, however, is interested primarily in the 12 European Common Market countries (the E.C.), of which Britain, France, West Germany and Italy are the most important. The total population of the E.C. in 1988 exceeded 322 million.
As outlined in Chapter 4, the E.C. has played a major role in the past decade in the promotion of equal opportunities for men and women. Its legislative activity and the First Action Program 1982-1985 have made a significant contribution to the progress achieved in this area at European level. As a result there has been a shift in public attitudes towards a more equal participation by men and women in economic, social and political life, a shift which has also been measured by major opinion polls. Unfortunately there is frequently a gap between people's intentions and their real life actions. In this context the Commission of the E.C. launched its Second Action Program 1986- 1990 also to respond to new economic and social challenges in the area of equal treatment for men and women. The second program deals with an important number of actions concerning women's employment, particularly those which encourages an equal level of participation in employment linked with new technology, and a more equal sharing of family responsibilities. 1
Equality in education and training, equal pay and equal social security rights are objectives of all the European governments, but in most countries there is still a gap between principle and practice. There is a policy but the results indicate that the policy either is being ignored or is not being implemented with any vigor. Alternatively, the existing laws are not being tested sufficiently. Take Britain as an example. In 1985 British women still earned less than three-quarters of the average hourly earnings of men. From 1970 to 1976 women's hourly earnings increased from 62 percent of that of men to 73 percent. But the progress towards equality stopped after 1977. 2 The average hourly earnings of full-time women workers, aged 18 and over, stalled at just over 73 percent by the end of 1985. 3
The range of job opportunities for women in Europe, or the lack of them, begins at school. In the classrooms, girls are far too frequently still the victims of prejudices and stereotyping which close off career opportunities. There are also inadequacies in career guidance so that girls often opt for shorter education and training periods, finally offering lower qualifications when they enter