More than 25 years ago, 189 countries around the world signed up to the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA), which committed them to work towards a set of strategic objectives and actions for the advancement of women and the achievement of gender equality in 12 critical areas of concern. One of the key amongst these was Area H Institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women, for which the primary objectives are:

  • to strengthen the national machineries responsible for the promotion of gender equality
  • to ensure that a gender perspective is integrated across all areas of policy (i.e. gender mainstreaming)
  • to ensure the production and dissemination of statistics disaggregated by sex to provide an evidence base for developing policy and monitoring progress

In the EU, the Council of the European Union has adopted four indicators (three in 2006 and one in 2013) for monitoring the state of play and progress towards these objectives.

In 2021, EIGE undertook a review of the conceptual and measurement frameworks for these indicators and made refinements that increase the focus on the effectiveness of implementation and take account of the Directives on equal treatment between women and men1, the Commission’s recent legislative initiative on Binding standards for Equality Bodies and the 2015 OECD Recommendation on Gender Equality in Public Life, which advocates greater involvement of independent gender equality bodies in the mainstreaming of gender issues across all areas of policy.

Data collected to describe the situation in December 2021 is published on EIGE’s gender statistics database and some key findings are described below.

Clear need for greater accountability

Indicator H1 considers the institutional commitment to gender equality through five sub-indicators that focus on where and how responsibility for gender equality is situated within government, the scope of the mandate of both governmental and independent bodies, and the extent to which gender equality goals and objectives are set out in a clear strategy and corresponding action plan.

Whilst overall scores for indicator H1 averaged 61% of the maximum possible (9.1 / 15), scores were particularly low for sub-indicator H1e dealing with governmental accountability (2.2 / 5 or 44%). Too often the government’s vision for gender equality is not translated into a concrete, well costed action plan with clear and quantifiable targets against which progress can be transparently monitored.

Figure 1 - Scores for indicator H1 and sub-indicator H3, 2021 (% maximum score), 2021

Note: No data for IE, FR; incomplete data for HU (missing H1d) and AT (partial data for H1e)
Source: EIGE, Data collection on institutional mechanisms

Gender equality needs more resources

Effective national machineries need adequate resources, but data collected under Indicator H2 suggest that many gender equality bodies are under-resourced. Only in Spain are both the governmental and independent bodies resourced sufficiently to score the maximum possible under this indicator.

More resources are needed, but particularly for independent bodies, where the evidence suggests that the tendency to include gender as part of a wider equalities remit may limit the resources and thus capacity to focus specifically on gender issues.

Figure 2 - Scores for indicator H2 (max=4), 2021

Note: No data for IE, FR; incomplete data for HU (missing H2a) and SK (missing H2b)
Source: EIGE, Data collection on institutional mechanisms

Tools to support gender mainstreaming activities are not widely used

Indicator H3 considers the government’s commitment to gender mainstreaming (e.g. in the shape of laws requiring its application), governmental structures to support gender mainstreaming, the use of gender mainstreaming methods/tools, and the extent to which independent bodies are consulted on gender issues across policy areas. Scores for the indicator average only 39% of the maximum possible (5.4 / 14).

A significant factor in these low scores is the limited use of methods and tools to support gender mainstreaming evidenced by sub-indicator H3c (average 34%). For example, gender budgeting was reported to be “practically an unknown concept” in 11 Member States and “still in its foundational stages” in a further five. The new sub-indicator H3d also shows that few countries have taken note of the OECD recommendation to involve independent gender equality bodies in policy consultations.

Figure 3 - Scores for Indicator H3 and sub-indicator H3c (% maximum score), 2021

Note: No data for IE, FR; incomplete data for HU (partial data for H3c only), PL (no data for H3b and only partial data for H3c) and SK (no data for H3d)
Source: EIGE, Data collection on institutional mechanisms

Mixed results for the production/dissemination of gender statistics

Comprehensive data on the differences between women and men are crucial both as an evidence base for policy-makers and to promote awareness of the current situation and trends. The results for indicator H4 show mixed results in this respect (average 3.4 / 6 or 56%).

Some countries have legislation in place to ensure the production of such data (sub-indicator H4a) but then have poor dissemination systems (sub-indicator H4c), whilst others provide good access to gender statistics without resort to any legislative driver. Countries such as Spain, Sweden, Portugal and Slovakia score well, but there is widespread room for improvement.

Figure 4 - Scores for Indicator H4 (max=6), 2021

Note: No data for IE, FR; incomplete data for HU (missing H4a, partial data for H4c)
Source: EIGE, Data collection on institutional mechanisms

Gender mainstreaming and resourcing are the main areas for improvement

Taking the average scores for each indicator in relation to the maximum possible shows that the main weaknesses in the implementation of Area H of the BPfA relate to gender mainstreaming (39%) and the human resources of gender equality bodies (43%). Both are critical to progress – adequate resources are needed to support, promote and deliver on gender equality goals and only an effective application of gender mainstreaming can ensure that gender issues are taken into account across all areas of policy.

Figure 5 - Average score for each indicator in relation to its theoretical maximum, EU25, 2021 (score, %)

Note: No data for IE, FR (hence EU25 not EU27). The data for each indicator also include gaps for selected countries: H1: HU, AT; H2: HU,SK; H3: HU, PL, SK; H4: HU.
Source: EIGE, Data collection on institutional mechanisms

Read more

EIGE’s report: The pathway to progress: strengthening effective structures for gender equality and gender mainstreaming in the EU

Individual country reports

EIGE's work on monitoring progress with implementation of Area H of the BPfA

Directive 2002/73/EC, Directive 2006/54/EC (RECAST)) and Directive 2004/113/EC.