Halfway through Gender Equality: 200 more years?

On 26 June the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) launched its 2015 Gender Equality Index – measuring gender equality in the EU 2005-2012.

Virginja Langbaak, Director explained how the index provides clear arguments for why measures to tackle gender inequality needs to be taken in order to reach the smart, inclusive and sustainable growth that EU decision makers are aiming for. Vera Jourova, Commissioner for Equality reiterated her strong commitment and welcomed the index as a way to initiate political debate about which member states have invested in equality and which has failed, and where the gaps increased. Ulrike Lunacek, Vice-President of the European Parliament made the point that the index does not only show under representation of women but also over representation of men. The Parliament is therefore calling for binding quote system, legislation to end violence against women and the Maternity Leave Directive. Lydia Mutsch, Minister of Equal Opportunities in Luxembourg illustrated that the very slow progress in Europe in general, and in Luxembourg in particular – requires 200 years more to reach gender equality!

While the index is a valuable tool to compare gender equality in different member states and between different areas of life, one may wonder how many more figures and data decision makers need before they will be convinced that something has to be done? I believe, as long as conferences, seminars, roundtables and events mainly attract women themselves, men in power positions will not be won over. This is why EIGE’s White Ribbon Campaign is important to engage with. Among their Ambassadors is our Director, Pierre Baussand.

Recent European Commission’s report restated the fact that the gender pension gap in the EU remains wide, with women on average receiving pensions that are 40% lower than men’s. On 19 June the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council adopted conclusions calling on member states to promote further research to better understand the gender pension gap and to establish preventive and mitigating measures.

Ahead of the Informal EPSCO Meeting on 16-17 July Social Platform will share its concrete recommendations on how women and men can become equal earners and equal carers throughout the life-cycle, to the Ministers discussion on “Changing labour market: challenges for women and men”.

EIGE’s Index report shows both positive and negative development:

  • Gender equality scores are lower among all the intersectional groups considered (e.g. foreign –born workers). Intersecting inequalities are difficult to capture from statistical perspective. Better understanding is important for EU gender equality policy. EIGE foresees to make intersecting inequalities a priority area of their forthcoming report to be released in 2017.
  • The distribution of time for care activities remains unequal between women and men. Better implementation of legislation may contribute to improve this area.
  • Gender gaps in decision-making have narrowed, but women still account for minority on company boards. Legislation and policy measures can bring improvement to gender balance in decision-making.
  • Women’s educational attainment is rising, but progress is held back by strong segregation and decrease in lifelong learning. Gender equality in education and training contributes to achieving smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
  • Only small improvements have been made in the labour market. Gender inequalities in work hamper the potential for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.
  • Some progress in gender equality in earnings and income has been made. Lower earnings and income among women and men can mean greater risk of poverty.
  • Better scores in health status and access to health structures have been achieved. There is a lack of data on determinants of health.
  • Survey-based data focusing on prevalence of violence against women do not fully capture actual prevalence of violence against women and improved data is needed.