Slow progress leaves women from vulnerable groups behind

More detailed analysis of FTE employment shows worsening inequality among groups at high risk of poverty or social exclusion, including lone parents, people with migrant backgrounds and those with low educational achievement. For all of these groups, the gender gap in FTE employment has increased by more than 1 p.p. since 2014 (Figure 6).

The gender differences in FTE employment rates are particularly high among those with low educational attainment or who were born abroad, reaching around 20 p.p. in each of these groups. This is higher than the FTE employment gap for the overall population (roughly 16 p.p.). The employment situation seems particularly dire for less educated women, where massive gender inequality is coupled with an FTE employment rate below 20 %.

Around one in two people from a non-EU migrant background and one in three with low educational attainment are at risk of poverty and social exclusion (EIGE, 2020a). Many migrant women tend to work as domestic workers, often under informal working arrangements; while some managed to return to their home countries ahead of border closures triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic (Zacharenko, 2020), others remained ‘trapped in host countries … with no income or place to go’ (ILO, 2020b).

The employment situation of lone mothers (who account for 9 out of 10 lone parents) is quite different. Their FTE employment rate is around 60 %, roughly 15 p.p. below that of men. However, lone parents must often rely only on their own income to provide for their children, and women in particular are prone to be in precarious employment.

Lone parents have faced extremely difficult circumstances during the COVID-19 pandemic owing to school and childcare facility closures, which have often required them to work from home or stop working altogether (Alon et al., 2020). Every second lone parent is at risk of poverty or social exclusion (EIGE, 2020a).

Figure 6. FTE employment rate by sex, family composition, age, education level, country of birth and disability, EU, 2018


People with disabilities are the only vulnerable group analysed for whom the data show a decline in the FTE employment gender gap. However, the overall FTE employment rate remains very low in this group, reaching around 21 % for women and 29 % for men, with almost no improvement since 2014. Around one third of women in this group are at risk of poverty and social exclusion (EIGE, 2020a).

Finally, data collected by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) indicates very low employment among women from certain minority backgrounds. Fewer than one in five women from Roma communities work, and around 80 % of Roma people are estimated to live below the monetary poverty threshold in their country (FRA, 2016b).

Other data collected by FRA highlight that people from the LGTBI community continue to be discriminated against in the world of work, with around 1 in 10 feeling discriminated against when looking for work, and 1 in 5 when working (FRA, 2020).