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Restricted call for proposals to national authorities on closing gender gaps over the life cycle - work-life balance for women and men - a better sharing of care - REC-RGEN-WWLB-AG-2019
Deadline: 16 May 2019   CALL EXPIRED

 Gender Equality
 Aerospace Technology
 Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme
 European Union
 Mental health


Priorities and activities to be co-financed

1. Priorities

The restricted call for proposals will focus on the gender gaps over the life-cycle, looking at work-life balance for women and men, including through a better sharing of care. The aim is to support Member States in raising awareness and tackling gender stereotypes with regard to roles in work and in private life, and in particular with regard to reconciliation issues (including the promotion of the uptake of family-related leaves by men), taking into account national specificities, complemented by EU broad common messages.

Indeed, while the gender employment gap is very slowly decreasing and now stands at 11.5%[1], the gender pay gap remains stagnant at 16.2 %[2] and the gender pensions gap is 36.6%. The factors behind the gender pay gap are multiple but one of the main reasons is related to care responsibilities: women more often adapt their work to private time needs, for instance by working part-time, and they do more unpaid work, that is work done in the domestic sphere such as care for children, cooking or cleaning in one’s own house. They also take longer career breaks and their career choices have repercussions over the course of their working life. Comparing working men and women and the time spent on unpaid work in the 6th European Working Conditions Survey[3], women spend on average 22 hours per week on unpaid work while men spend 9 hours per week. More strikingly even is the differences between working men and women with a child under the age of 7 in their household: women spend 39 hours per week in unpaid work and 32 hours in paid work, while men work 19 hours per week in unpaid work and 41 hours in paid work.

This is not always in line with the preferences of workers. In a Eurobarometer on gender equality[4], more than eight in ten Europeans approve of the statement that a men should do an equal share of household activities, with half saying they strongly approve (50%). More than eight in ten also approve of a man taking parental leave to take care of his children with 52% saying they strongly approve of this.

Equally, a Eurobarometer on work-life[5] balances shows that attitudes towards family leaves and flexible working arrangements for family reasons are still problematic for a considerable amount of workers. A quarter of workers say it is not easy for them to take family leave or flexible working arrangements and that they feel discouraged by their employer and nearly four in ten think it has repercussions for their career and this is more the case so for men than for women with regard to family leaves. Financial reasons are also often a hindrance, especially for men as well as being able to take these leaves in a flexible manner, such as in blocks of time. Also, nearly three quarter of Europeans who are currently not in work say that flexible working arrangements would give them a better chance of entering paid work and for two thirds it would allow them to continue working instead of taking extended leaves or retirement.

In this respect, the call for proposals aims to support measures which will not only have consequences on the short term with regard to better work life balance for all workers, but would also allow more women to (re)enter the labour market and tackle the gender pay and pensions gaps.

Ultimately it aims at supporting men and women to make informed choices throughout their life and to promote good practices in companies. At aggregate level, better work-life balance helps men and women to be able to work and continue to work in combination with their private care responsibilities. More equal economic independence at all ages means higher employment rates for men and women and a more sustainable and potentially longer working life for all.

This call for proposals is in line with the current development at EU level following the initiative on work-life balance for working parents and carers of April 2017 and falls under the first and second thematic priority areas of the European Commission Strategic Engagement for Gender Equality 2016-2019.

2. Description of the activities

Whereas several measures and initiatives are listed, it is not requested to include all of them in a single project. Projects with a strong focus are very much valued.

Activities may consist of any of the following:

  • activities tackling negative attitudes and gender stereotypes with regard to care;
  • awareness-raising, education and empowerment activities; in particular, at individual and company level, awareness-raising activities on behaviours of men and women, their superiors and colleagues, concerning the combination of work and private care, attitudes towards certain working patterns by men and women as well as work-life balance friendly workplace practices;
  • exchange of good practice, mutual learning, seminars; in particular, activities promoting good practice examples of companies who address work-life balance for all workers in a comprehensive strategy, including innovative workplace practices in terms of space/time, adapted to different time needs of workers over the life course;
  • capacity-building and training activities for company actors and authorities.

Activities must take place in countries participating to the REC Programme to be eligible for funding.

3. Expected results

  • the issue of work-life balance for men and women in practice is discussed, building from a rights based approach into effective actions with regard to reconciliation between work and private life;
  • company behaviour is discussed and good practice examples are highlighted; addressing work-life balance is seen as strength which helps to retain good workers, increase motivation and productivity and reduce stress, mental health issues, prevent early exit from labour market and increase sustainability of work;
  • both men and women feel more comfortable in taking up leave arrangements, which, in combination with the use of care facilities, leads to a more equal share of care at household level;
  • female employment rates will be increased through a smoother combination of work with private life and a possible prevention from long family breaks from work.

Whereas numerous results are listed above, it is not expected for a single project to produce all of them. Projects bringing limited, but effective results are very much valued.

Applicants are invited to take note of previously funded projects.[1] The continuation or follow-up of successful initiatives, including the scaling-up of existing initiatives and/or testing them in a different context, may be funded if it is aligned with one of the priorities. However, the exact duplication of an initiative will not be funded.

Applicants shall explain and demonstrate how their proposals are aligned with the respective EU policies and with the documents published by the European Commission or referred to below (see bibliography). The degree of relevance to the priorities of the call for proposals will be assessed under the award criterion ‘a) relevance’.

Applying behavioural insights

Applicants are encouraged to apply insights and practical tools from behavioural sciences in their projects in view of achieving changes in attitudes and behaviour. Below is a step-by-step approach to guide applicants in the incorporation of behavioural insights in their projects. For illustrative purposes, the examples below refer to gender-based violence, though the same reasoning could apply to other issues.

1) First, applicants should provide a clear description of the issue that will be tackled by the proposed action. If we consider attitudes and stereotypes with regard to care and workplace practices, the description should specify the type(s) of behaviour (or attitudes) or practices (for instance working time arrangements and practices)that will be covered by the proposed action. Additionally, the objective(s) of the action should be clearly defined. These should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely (SMART) and should be set ahead of the action.

2) Second, the proposed action should identify the underlying determinants (also called behavioural causes)[1] of the issue at stake. This could be, for example, passive stance of bystanders, low reporting of violence by victims. As the issues identified under point 1 likely have multiple underlying determinants, the proposed action could focus on several of these, or on only one. Each of the different underlying determinants the projects aims to tackle should be clearly indicated in the proposal.

3) Third, the proposed action should encourage a specific target group(s) to perform target behaviour(s)[2] or discourage them from doing so. Actions may aim, for instance, at changing men's perception of traditional gender roles, and their environment including the workplace environment, etc.

4) Fourth, once the target group(s), the underlying determinants and the target behaviour are identified, applicants should describe the solutions[3] (also called behavioural levers) that will be implemented. For example, if the proposed action aims at reducing the social acceptance of gender-based violence, the project could focus on changing social norms (if for example, signalling the appropriate behaviour by comparing an individual’s conduct with that of the majority of his /her peers/neighbours/friends), or make use of so-called "commitment devices" (convincing the target group to make a public pledge to carry out a certain behaviour/ support the target group in developing a specific plan to achieve a certain goal) as part of the intervention.

5) Fifth, the proposed action should specify the outcome that the proposed solution aims at generating and how the outcome(s) will be measured. Outcomes refer to impact, change in attitudes or behavioural change resulting from the action, and should not be confused with project outputs (e.g. number of leaflets published, number of people reached). If possible, projects should propose a measurable objective, compared to a baseline. For example, if the goal is to increase reporting of violence, a valuable outcome measure would be the number of cases reported to the police following the implementation of the project. If the goal is to change attitudes of a certain group of professionals, projects should not only measure how many attended training, but also ask them about their attitudes before and after the training. All interventions should include collection of relevant data, to be able to compare the situation before and after the project.

6) Sixth, to find out whether the proposed actions will have the desired effects, ideally the project should include a phase of pre-testing the solutions before implementing them in full-scale[4]. Such ex-ante assessment of the expected effect of the intervention will provide valuable insights on whether the proposed action has the intended effects and helps to ensure that, once fully deployed, the action focus is on what works. One possibility would be to use a randomised controlled trial.[5]

7) Seventh, the proposed action should include an evaluation of impact. Such evaluation should be part of the initial project plan, to make sure that the most appropriate evaluation design is used, and to set up valid outcomes measures (together with robust and feasible metrics) that allow the actual impact of the action to be determined. Several evaluation methods can be used such as after-only designs, before-after or pre-post designs, RCTs and field experiments.[11]


Projects funded under this call shall also seek to promote equality between women and men and, if relevant for the project, also the rights of the child. Gender and rights of the child mainstreaming means integrating a gender and rights of the child perspective in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of a project, as appropriate. Consequently, when relevant, the applicant shall take the necessary steps to ensure that gender equality and child-related issues are taken into account by paying attention to the situation and particular needs of women and men and of children. It is, for example, essential that projects do not silence, stereotype, stigmatise, lay the blame on or discriminate against women or men. Projects should contribute to empowering women and to ensuring that they achieve their full potential and enjoy the same rights as men.

Projects funded under this call shall also comply with the prohibition of discrimination based on any of the grounds listed in Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (the "Charter"), in accordance with and within the limits set by Article 51 of the Charter. Among others the Commission encourages applicants to promote equal employment opportunities for all its staff and team. The beneficiary is encouraged to foster an appropriate mix of people, whatever their ethnic origin, religion, age, gender and ability.

Finally, all projects under this call shall respect and shall be implemented in line with the rights and principles enshrined in the Charter.

Monitoring and evaluation

Appropriate attention has to be given to developing a robust evidence base and involving reliable monitoring, evaluation and reporting procedures based on recognised methodological approaches, developed by a competent and experienced policy impact evaluator (for further details please refer to "Applying Behavioural Sciences to EU Policy-making", Joint Research Centre Scientific and Policy Report (2013):, in consultation with the relevant project partners. This should include defining the expected impact of the activity in measurable terms and defining a robust methodology and indicators to measure the impact of the activity. Though applicants are free to choose the method for evaluating the impact of the activities, the method should be robust, appropriate and involve rigorous data collection and monitoring (for further details please refer to "Social Experimentation - A methodological guide for policy makers", Written by J-Pal Europe, at the request of Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion – see bibliography. See also “Turning the Curve: outcomes-based accountability” always in the bibliography).

Proposals must make provisions to document the number of persons reached, provide anonymised data disaggregated by sex and by age, and must describe in their grant application how this will be done and how the target group will be reached.

Sustainability of projects and dissemination of results

Applications should also include a clear communication, dissemination and sustainability plan, with measures to maintain and monitor results after the end of funding. Applicants should also describe the potential for scaling up the measure, should the activities produce the expected results. The projects should aim at ensuring their durability and appropriate dissemination, including at the end of funding (by promoting and enabling access to their results to the widest possible audience).


Behavioural insights and experimentation:

• Sara Rafael Almeida, Joana Sousa Lourenço, Dessart François Jacques, and Emanuele Ciriolo. Insights from behavioural sciences to prevent and combat violence against women. Literature review (2016)

• Joana Sousa Lourenço, Emanuele Ciriolo, Sara Rafael Almeida, and Xavier Troussard. Behavioural insights applied to policy: European Report 2016:

• "Social Experimentation - A methodological guide for policy makers", Written by J-Pal Europe, at the request of Directorate General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion:

• "Applying Behavioural Sciences to EU Policy-making", Joint Research Centre Scientific and Policy Report (2013):

Gender equality and economic empowerment of women:

Policy documents/background information:

• DG Justice and Consumers' webpages on gender equality,:

•"Strategic engagement for gender equality 2016-2019":

•Action plan on Gender pay gap & fiches:

• Commission’s Initiative for Work-Life Balance for Working Parents and Carers:

Data and reports:

•Eurobarometer on work-life balance :

• Eurofound research on gender pay gap and work-life balance, see

• Results of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound)'s European Working Conditions Surveys (EWCS):•

• European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE)'s studies on men and gender equality, on gender stereotypes, see

Monitoring of outcomes:

• See, for example:

• Turning the Curve: outcomes-based accountability – adapted from ‘Trying hard is not good enough’, Mark Friedman e.g.

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