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EU gender equality report out

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EIGE, report, Gender Equality Index 2017, EWL, EU women, And it is high time the EU – including the UK – acted decisively to accelerate the pace of change.

The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) launched the 2017 edition of its Gender Equality Index (GEI) earlier this month.

This valuable statistical instrument measures progress on gender equality in Europe and provides a tool which helps women’s rights activists to identify gender gaps that require more robust measures to attack.

The European Women’s Lobby (EWL), the largest coalition for women’s rights in Europe, welcomed the overall progress evidenced by the latest edition of the Gender Equality Index but was dismayed by the very slow pace of change.

For it is frustrating to see how progress has practically ground to a halt in the past decade.

This year’s index score is just 66.2 – an increase of just 4 points in the last 10 years.

And although the EWL would like to believe otherwise, the data show that women are still very much second-class citizens in the EU.

While most moved in the right direction this past year, some EU Member States have actually gone backwards and not one has reached full gender equality.

At this rate of progress, equality will not be seen in our generation nor in the next generations’ lifetimes.

This is simply not acceptable.

The most gender equal countries in Europe continue to be Sweden, Denmark and Finland, with scores of around 80/100; Greece, Hungary and Slovakia on the other hand are languishing at the bottom of the index at around half way to equality.

Looking at the results in the different domains, most progress can be seen in the sphere of power, with greater numbers of women moving into decision-making positions across political, economic and social spheres.

The relatively higher pace of progress is in part due to a very low starting point and this area still has the lowest score of all domains.

Men continue to dominate leadership roles at powerful central banks, finance ministries and in the top positions of the largest companies in the EU, where only 4 per cent of top positions are held by women.

Where there has been progress, for example in corporate governance, this is in large part due to pressure from women’s organisations and the introduction of specific legislative measures such as gender quotas.

Significant gender gaps in engagement in housework still exist across all social groups, with only a third of men engaging daily in cooking and housework.

For progress to happen, women need more time to be able to invest in paid work and political participation, but the burden of unpaid and low paid care work continues to rest on women’s shoulders – especially on migrant women.

But as the GEI shows, this Gender Time Gap is deeply rooted and is getting worse.

The EWL was pleased to see the GEI brought insight into intersecting inequalities, for specific groups of people based on age, (dis)ability, migrant background, education and family composition, revealing the extent to which these additional factors have a significant impact on levels of poverty, care responsibilities, employment and health.

But in the areas of work and money, the effects of austerity continue to have a detrimental impact on women’s lives.

Persistent gender gaps in income and earnings undermine women’s economic independence.

Women are much more likely to face discrimination at work and to take jobs that are low paid and low status.

And throughout Europe, women continue to experience lower employment rates, with higher levels of (involuntary) part-time work; women are much more likely to live in poverty, even if they are in paid work.

And the way forward?

Europe must move away from austerity towards a feminist economic model that is based on valuing care, investing in social rights and ensuring public tax and budget systems support equality.

This means, for example, investing in care infrastructure and introducing measures that support the redistribution of domestic care responsibilities between women and men.

We also need awareness campaigns to bring a mind-set change to shift societal attitudes and stereotypes: we have a shared economic and societal responsibility.

The EWL and members welcomed recent efforts made by the European Commission to restore work-life balance as part of the European Pillar of Social Rights to rebalance care responsibilities which are disproportionately placed on women’s shoulders.

And the EWL will also continue to call for the extension of maternity rights to ensure that all women in Europe have equal rights and freedom from discrimination with regards to pregnancy and child birth.

“Women are not willing to wait 100 years for equality,” Joanna Maycock, Secretary General of the European Women’s Lobby, said.

“It is high time for the EU to act decisively to accelerate the pace of change, to show that we are serious about the rights of all citizens.

“The EU needs to deliver on gender equality, which the GEI once again demonstrates is directly linked with more happy, open and inclusive societies.

“The EWL will continue to use its collective voice to resist, collaborate and demand equality for every last woman.”

To see the UK’s results, click here.

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