EIGE-2021 Gender Equality Index 2021 Report: Health
Domain of money
In 2019, access to financial resources remained, overall, still more restricted for women than for men. According to Eurostat, in the EU in 2019, gross hourly earnings for women were, on average, 14 % lower than for men. Low hourly gross earnings of lone parents, especially of lone mothers, is of particular concern (see Section 3.2). It results in women’s level of economic independence remaining far lower than men’s, and the feminisation of poverty is a serious concern for the EU.
Underlying causes of gender inequality in the domain of money are diverse and often interlinked. Motherhood and the unequal distribution of unpaid childcare between women and men make it harder for women to commit more time to paid work (EIGE, 2019e). The overall share of women in part-time work is greater since they balance paid jobs and unpaid care work to a greater extent than men (see Chapter 2, ‘Domain of work’, and Chapter 5, ‘Domain of time’). Job segregation also contributes to income inequality, as women predominate in sectors and professions that are less well compensated (EIGE, 2019c).
Economic situation and financial resources, particularly income, are crucial social determinants of the health of both women and men. A higher income supports improvement in health, and better health enables an individual to earn a higher income (Deaton, 2002; Smith, 1999). Income could be causally related to health in two ways: it directly affects the material conditions necessary for biological survival, such as nutritious food and safe homes, and it indirectly affects social participation and life opportunities, such as sport and well-being activities, that could have an impact on health and health-related risks (Lynch et al., 2004; Marmot, 2002). There is a significant income-related variation in self-reported poor health between women and men across countries, even if levels of income or standards of living are comparable (Furnée et al., 2011). The design of a healthcare system is also crucial. Level of income determines whether healthcare is affordable and accessible because it affects an individual’s ability to pay indirect costs, such as payments for diagnosis and treatment, out of their own pocket.
Although the right to equal pay for equal work or for work of equal value has been a cornerstone of EU treaties for more than 60 years, and despite a wealth of policies to redress gender inequality of income, women still earn less than men, on average, as reported above. The European Pillar of Social Rights enshrines equal opportunities to access financial resources, the principle of equal pay for jobs of equal value, rights to adequate minimum income benefits, and equal opportunities for women and men to acquire pension rights.
Addressing the gender pay gap and introducing binding measures on pay transparency are also high priorities for the EU. As Member States have been slow to implement, even partly, the 2014 Commission recommendation on pay transparency, a binding measures proposal was presented by the European Commission in 2021. This includes the right of employees to know the pay levels of those doing work of equal value and the obligation for companies with at least 250 employees to report their gender pay gap. In a further effort to reduce the gender pay gap, and acknowledging that women make up the majority of low-wage earners, EU Directive 2020/682 on adequate minimum wages in the EU, implemented in October 2020 sets out proposals to reduce gender pay and pension gaps through sufficient minimum earnings.