Still a Long Way to Go for Gender Equality in Europe

On October 11, the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) welcomed around 300 decision-makers and representatives of civil society, among which AEGEE, represented by the Policy Officer of the Equal Rights Working Group.


EIGE is an autonomous body of the European Union established to contribute to and strengthen the promotion of gender equality. During the morning’s panel discussions, the panellists presented the findings of the new Gender Equality Index 2017 and discussed possible solutions to gender inequalities during an event at the Council of the European Union in Brussels.

The Focus Area of Equal Rights has for aim to acknowledge and tackle discrimination based on gender identity, expression and sexual orientation, and promote equity from an intersectional perspective. To achieve this objective, it is absolutely necessary to have access to data revealing the situation of groups of people at the intersection of several grounds for discrimination. For the first time this year, the Gender Equality Index 2017 offers the possibility to compare gender equality between countries with an intersectional perspective.

The Gender Equality Index is a tool created four years ago to evaluate the progress of the EU and the member states and indicate how far (or close) we are from achieving gender equality. The Index measures gender gaps in six core domains – knowledge, time, power health, work and money – and provides comprehensive data in two other satellite domains, violence against women and intersectional inequalities.

The main conclusion of this year Gender Equality Index is the disappointingly slow progress towards Gender equality in Europe between 2005 and 2015, with important disparities between countries.

While gender equality in the domain of power (decision-making position across the political, economic and social sphere) is progressing slowly but steadily, gender inequalities in time use, referring to the allocation of time spent on care, domestic work and social activities are persisting and growing. Young women between ages 15-24 are for instance less likely to take part in leisure activities outside their home (39% of young women workers takes part in sporting, cultural or leisure activities outside of their home, at least daily or several times a week, against 56% of young men workers). They are also way more likely to care for children, elderly or people with disabilities everyday (15,4% of young women between 15-24 against 3,1% of young men).

The event also represented the opportunity to present the new key feature of this year’s Index, that is data on intersectional inequalities. The index provides data showing how gender intersects with age, education, family composition and parenthood, country of birth and disability. Due to the difficulty to gather data on certain types of discrimination, the Index however fails to cover intersections between, for instance, gender and sexual orientation or gender and religion.

These disaggregated data reveal some worrisome inequalities affecting people at the intersection of different identities. During the conference, Pirkko Mahlamäki (Executive committee member of the European disability forum) emphasised for instance the situation of women with disabilities, that are at risk of falling behind in the area of education and labour market, but also three to five times more likely to be victims of domestic abuses.

As underlined by MEP Ernest Urtasun, EU decision-makers have the duty to rely on those data to ensure that EU anti-discrimination policies do not leave groups of people without adequate protection.

To ensure that decision-makers implement evidence-based, inclusive legislations, the gathering of data needs to be strengthened considerably in most member states to obtain a clear picture of inequalities and intersecting discriminations. The Equal Rights Working Group is particularly pleased to see this emphasis on intersectionality and support EIGE’s call to stakeholders to improve the gathering of relevant data to ensure a complete and clear image of how different types of discrimination and inequalities intersect.

Get to know the situation of gender equality in your country, and let’s continue to strive for a more Equal Europe for all!


Written by Juliette Beaulaton, Policy Officer of Equal Right Working Group