The EU slow progress toward gender equality

The EU slow progress toward gender equality

On 15 October, the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) launched its Gender Equality Index for 2019, which stands at 67.4 out of 100, with almost half of all Member States falling below the 60-point mark. The new Gender Equality Index highlights that the progress it is still at a very slow pace. Since 2005, the EU’s score has increased by only 5.4 points (+ 1.2 points since 2015). The EU is closest to gender equality in the domains of health (88.1 points) and money (80.4 points). Gender inequalities are most worrying in the domain of power (51.9 points), which looks at equality in decision-making. Nevertheless, the score in this domain has improved the most since 2005 (+ 13 points), due to progress in nearly every Member State. This has been mainly driven by the rise of women on company boards, although in just a few Member States. France is the only one to have at least 40 % of each gender on the boards of publicly listed companies.

Sweden continues to top the EU scoreboard, with 83.6 points, followed by Denmark with 77.5. Greece and Hungary have the most ground to make up, with both scoring less than 52. The biggest improver is Portugal, with an increase of 3.9 points, followed closely by Estonia with 3.1 points.

The Gender Equality Index

The Gender Equality Index is a tool to measure the progress of gender equality in the EU, developed by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE). The Index has six core domains - work, money, knowledge, time, power and health – and two additional domains: violence against women and intersecting inequalities. It gives more visibility to areas that need improvement and ultimately supports policy makers to design more effective gender equality measures.

The Index also shows the diverse realities that different groups of women and men face. It examines how factors such as disability, age, level of education, country of birth and family type, intersect with gender to create different pathways in people’s lives. For the first time, the Index highlights the situation of LGBTQI+ people and Roma and Muslim women in areas where statistics are available.

Focus on work-life balance

A special focus for this year has been on work life balance, and researchers have analysed the impact that parental leave and flexible working arrangements, as well as public infrastructures such as health and social services, transport, public space, childcare and long-term care, have on gender equality.

Parental leave is one of the important policy measures to support parents who balance caring duties with work but it is not available to all. In the EU, 28 % of women and 20 % of men are ineligible for parental leave.

As part of the work-life balance analysis, the Index also examined whether women and men have the same opportunities to work flexibly, to attend training courses, to use transport and commute contributing as well to the monitoring of the implementation of the European Pillar of Social Rights and its Work-Life Balance Initiative.

The Index looks also at the availability of public infrastructures that are strongly linked to gender inequalities: it has been pointed out that the rising needs within long-term care and the lack of (public) care services intensify gender inequalities, and that greater investment in public transport would limit the role of private transport in determining job options. More investment in these services would reduce the challenges in accessing the labour market currently faced by women who are most likely to have care responsibilities or cannot use private transport due excessive commute time, proximity of stops, timetables etc.

With this new monitoring tool, once more we see that the European Union has been moving towards gender equality at a snail’s pace: how long until we can reach real gender equality in the EU?

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