October 15th European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) presented 2019 Gender Equality Index in EU and its member countries.
EIGE defines gender equality as “equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys”. EIGA has been monitoring the advancement of gender equality throughout the EU since 2013, measuring progress through six core domains: work, money, knowledge, time, power, and health, and taking into account national contexts on relevant policy areas.
The latest Gender Equality Index shows that the EU’s score for gender equality is up just one point to 67.4, since the 2017 edition. On the top is Sweden with 83.6 points, followed by Denmark with 77.5. At the bottom are Greece and Hungary, both scoring less than 52. The biggest improvement was made by Portugal, Estonia, Italy and Cyprus.
Progress “at a snail’s pace”
In 2005, the EU’s General Equality Index score was 62. Fourteen years later, it’s only improved by 5.4 points. “We are moving in the right direction but we are still far from the finish line. Our Index, which sets a benchmark for gender equality in the EU, shows that almost half of all Member States fall below the 60 point mark. As the new EU Parliament and Commission shape and renew EU priorities for the next strategic framework, it is crucial that gender equality gathers speed,” said Virginija Langbakk, Director of the EIGE.
As sexist stereotypes and preconceptions still shape attitudes and behaviours it has impact on basically every aspect of everyday life – from work-life balance to childcare, from political decision-making to how much money you’ve got in your pocket.
National policies are lagging behind when it comes to providing and encouraging paternal leaves for fathers of newborn children. This lack of adequate social policies means that men are often still perceived as the automatic full-time breadwinners, assigning women to reproductive roles and unpaid childcare, several European countries don’t promote women’s economic independence and labour-market participation
Parental leave in general 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.
The amount of time dedicated to the informal, unpaid care of the elderly disproportionately weighs on the shoulders of women, who have historically been expected to include this type of care in their duties at home. Women’s greater involvement in informal care, which negatively impacts their participation in the labour market, also increases their risk of economic dependency, poverty and social exclusion. Study shows that people of 50-64 age group: 21 % of women and 11 % of men care for older people and/or people with disabilities at least several days a week.
Power, though, is the field where, according to the Index, the gap is most evident. In Greece, Cyprus, Malta and Hungary, women account for less than 20 % of parliamentarians and, overall, men dominate the boards of the largest listed companies and central banks across the EU. Women represent 40% of board members of public research-funding organisations and 36 % of publicly owned broadcasting organisations.
“Gender inequality is holding Europe back from reaching its full potential. I am proud of what we have achieved, however now our actions need to make a difference on the ground. Our Work-Life Balance Directive adopted this year will be a game-changer for women and men across Europe. The rules will support more equal sharing of caring responsibilities, which will allow women to stay on the labour market and take on challenging roles or management positions,” said Věra Jourová, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality.