10. Conclusions

Progress towards gender equality in the EU remains slow. The Gender Equality Index score in 2018 was 67.9 points, just 0.5 points higher than in 2017 and 4.1 points higher than in 2010. Sweden, Denmark, France and Finland took the top rankings in gender quality. Italy, Luxembourg and Malta experienced the largest improvements since 2010, and the situation remained almost the same in Czechia, Hungary and Poland. Romania, Hungary and Greece remained at the bottom of the rankings, although Romania and Greece had experienced a significant improvement in gender equality since 2010, particularly Greece since 2017.

Although there has been noticeable progress in the EU towards increased women’s employment rates, lower risks of poverty for both women and men, improved gender balance in political and economic decision-making, and policy developments to support work–life balance, there remains a need for more structural change in all domains and Member States.

Gender equality in the EU is facing new, emerging challenges, including those brought about by digitalisation (the thematic focus of this report), recent migration flows and a mounting backlash against gender equality. Some Member States have seen a backlash against women’s human rights that has undermined the discourse on gender equality or developed into measures to prevent progress on women’s rights.

The backlash against gender equality has also contributed to the shrinking space for civil society and women’s rights non-governmental organisations, a problem that has deepened and accelerated in several Member States in recent years (EIGE, 2020a).

Although further investigation is needed, emerging evidence suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 poses new risks to and challenges for gender equality, in particular to women’s economic independence and in relation to violence against women. Several aspects of the lockdown measures taken by Member States to curb the pandemic have had a considerable impact on economic sectors with a high presence of women and on professions dominated by women.

Women have also experienced additional childcare burdens owing to the closure of schools and crèche services, with a particularly marked impact on working mothers. The lockdown and social distancing measures have been associated with an increase in requests for support from women victims of intimate partner violence in many Member States.

Digitalisation and the future of work