Progress is an uphill struggle

The Gender Equality Index score for the EU-27 is 68.0 points out of 100[1], which is a 0.6-point improvement since the 5th edition in 2020. The score is only 4.9 points higher than in 2010 (Figure 1). With gender equality inching forward by only 1 point every 2 years, it will take nearly three generations to achieve gender parity at the current pace. And even that projection is threatened by COVID-19. The pandemic presents a real risk, not only slowing progress, but also rolling back fragile gains made since 2010 (Figure 1).

The greatest gender inequalities are in the domain of power, with a score of 55.0 points. The silver lining, however, is that this domain is advancing faster than others. Its score has risen by 1.9 points in 1 year and by 13.1 points since 2010. Much of this progress is due to outstanding developments in women’s participation in economic and political decision-making in several Member States.

The domain of knowledge, with the second lowest score, of 62.7 points, has seen a 0.1-point decrease since the 2020 Index. Its score has improved by a mere 2.9 points in total since 2010, reflecting the fact that gender segregation in some fields of study in tertiary education is entrenched.

With a score of 65.7 points, dropping by 0.3 points since 2010, the domain of time is alone in regressing to below 2010 levels. It reveals persistent and growing gender inequalities in time spent in caring and social activities. Lack of data means that the latest developments in this domain cannot be assessed. This reiterates the need for more frequent time-use data to better track progress in this area, particularly on monitoring unpaid work. EIGE will fill the gap in the near future by collecting EU-wide data on time spent on unpaid care and social activities by women and men.

The domain of work, despite having the third highest score, 71.6 points, continues to exhibit gender inequalities in employment and deep gender divides in some economic sectors and occupations. With its score increasing by 0.2 points in 1 year, and by a mere 1.9 points since 2010, gender equality in this domain remains a major issue in almost all Member States.

Scoring 82.4 points, the domain of money has seen an improvement of 0.9 points over 1 year, and of 3.3 points since 2010. However, progress in some areas, such as reducing the risk of poverty and equalising income distribution among women and men, overall, has been negative since 2010. The risk of poverty for women fractionally decreased between 2018 and 2019, but the data does not yet reflect the impact of COVID-19 in this area.

Figure 1. Ranges of Gender Equality Index scores (2019) and changes over time

Figure 2. Gender Equality Index scores (changes compared with 2010 and 2018)

Gender equality levels vary considerably among Member States (Figure 2). Ten countries are above the EU average, nine of them scoring more than 70 points on the Index. Sweden and Denmark maintain their top two status, as in the previous edition and since 2010. The Netherlands climbed to third position, jumping two places in 1 year. France and Finland each dropped by one position, now ranking fourth and fifth, respectively. Ten Member States scored lower than 60 points, with Greece, Hungary and Romania struggling the most to advance gender equality.

Since the previous edition, the greatest increases in Index scores have been in Luxembourg, Lithuania and the Netherlands, by about 2 points or more. Austria, Croatia, Germany, Latvia, Malta and Spain have seen rises of between 1 and 1.7 points. Slovenia’s score, however, decreased by 0.1 points.

Since 2010, most progress on gender equality has been in Luxembourg (+ 11.2 points), Malta (+ 10.6 points), Italy (+ 10.5 points), Austria (+ 9.3 points) and Portugal (+ 8.5 points). In Croatia, Cyprus, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland, Latvia and Spain, Index score increases ranged between 6.0 and 8.2 points. The least progress on gender equality since 2010 has been in Czechia, Hungary and Poland, where the increase has been around 1 point. The pace of change in the remaining 11 countries has been slow, with scores improving by between 1.9 and 5 points since 2010 (Figure 2).