Progress in equality is slow. EIGE report a decline in the EU


In 2022 gender equality progresses at a snail’s pace. Worsened even by complex crises that have become the norm. And, as numbers show, the decrease in growth and advancement is spread throughout the EU. These remarks accompany EIGE’s Gender Equality Index. The current edition refers to data collected in 2020, and with everything that has happened since, the results are described as warning signs of an unaltered situation for women.

This year’s Index shows pieces of evidence of rising inequalities and unprecedented drops. “What is most pressing – intervenes EIGE Director Carlien Scheele – is that this year’s score has taken a turn with decreases in several areas for the first time since 2010.”

Accounting for achievements, challenges and shortfalls in each of the 27 members of the EU, EIGE’s Index includes many critical areas (money, power, education or health) and thus provides valuable indications on the most urgent issue to tackle. The picture drawn in the last decade shows an uneven progress throughout the continent. Even if some countries are scoring better and others have improved the fastest, nowhere the increase has been consistent or constant. Speaking of numbers, if it is true that the total score has advances from 2010 and now stands at 68.6 out of 100, the progress has been only of 5.5 points.

On this year’s results, the pandemic has played a significant role. But, as the trends and the pace of change of the last decade display, it is responsible for the current figures to a point. Indeed, it has shown how fragile the achievements on the path toward gender equality still are. Yet, the setbacks recorded by the Index are more integral to daily living. Data on women’s participation in work – that also affect how long it takes them to find a job, advance in their career, and retire –, access to and progress in education and health, and general advancements in rights are essentially at a stall.

Overall scores and single improvements 

Interestingly, the only area that has shown the most significant growth is the one with the lowest scores. At 57.2 points, the domain of power remains weak. But it is also the only field that, in 2022, is propelling change. This slight yet needed and visible gain, according to EIGE, is due to the increased women’s participation in economic and political decision-making – in turn, linked to the introduction of the legislated quotas in a handful of Eu Member states, first evolved now in the Directive that binds all the 27.

Regarding themes of balance between genders, Europe presents a levelled scenario. Progress has not followed the same increase nor speed everywhere. And if an upward convergence trend is visible on a general level, different countries have shown different patterns toward equal opportunities. According to EIGE, Estonia, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Lavia, Malta, and Portugal are “catching up”; they score (well)below EU averages but have been showing bigger improvements in the years.

In Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Finland and Sweden, the pattern has been “flattening”. Their scores are amongst the highest, but their progress is slower than elsewhere. Thus, the existing gap between them and the average has narrowed. Ireland, Spain, France, Luxembourg, and Austria are “outperforming”, growing in scores and speed of change. The last group is showing a slower pace: Bulgaria, Czechia, Greece, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia are improving their results but falling behind “consistently and significantly”.

EIGE Gender Equality Index

Overall, the Index’s first five positions are occupied by Sweden (at the top, with 83.9 points out of 100), Denmark (77.8), the Netherlands (77.3), Finland (75.4) and France (75.1.) At the bottom, scoring well below the 70-points continental average, are Hungary (54.2), Romania (53.7) and Greece (53.4.)

Considering who has shown the greatest progress, regardless of the position in the EIGE’s list, Lithuania surpasses the others (+2.2 points). It is followed by Belgium, Croatia (both at +1.5) and the Netherlands (+1.4.) On the opposite end, Romania scores amongst the lowest members and has also recorded the biggest fall (-0.8 points.)

At the publication of the Index, the importance of intersectionality has often been stated and repeated. How do the war, the energy crisis, the pandemic and climate change affect women and women from minorities? How do most current events – from political unrest to pandemic responses – hit different groups? From single mothers to child-less older women. From highly educated professionals to low-income rural unemployed.

Evelyn Regner, vice-president of the EU Parliament, acknowledges: “There is a gender aspect for every issue: energy prices, food prices, the war in Ukraine. Solving those problems is impossible if we don’t fully include the gender perspective.”

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