Tuesday

1st Dec 2020

Gender equality still 60 years away, warns study

  • Women account for more than 85 percent of care workers in health services - one of the most undervalued and underpaid jobs (Photo: iStock)

At the current pace of improvement, women will reach complete equality with men in 2080 in the EU, according to the latest report on gender equality in the bloc published by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) on Thursday (29 October).

The EU agency warned that the progress on gender quality in the EU is far too slow - and is mostly driven by only a few countries.

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"Now there is a real risk that the Covid-19 pandemic will slow down progress on gender equality even further and potentially send us backwards," EIGE director Carlien Scheele said.

While women make up the overwhelming majority of care workers, some of the most undervalued and underpaid jobs, they also provide most of the unpaid care work at home.

Scheele also said when designing corona-recovery plans policy-makers should learn from the lessons of the economic crisis a decade ago, when austerity measures hit women, who tend to be poorer and rely more on public services, harder.

Women have been largely missing from the decision-making bodies established to tackle the pandemic.

The report said the pandemic is a "wake-up call" for gender equality in Europe, exposing inequalities that are taken for granted, such as the shortage of men in the care sector, increasing domestic violence against women under lockdown, or the dominance of men in the information and communication technology sector.

Only two out of ten ICT jobs are held by women, while conversely men make up just 15 percent of workers in care services.

The pandemic poses a "a serious threat to the fragile achievements made over the past decade" in gender equality, the report said.

Scheele called the gender equality backlash and "so-called anti-gender campaigns" in some parts of Europe another reason for concern.

The report came out as Polish women had been attacked by mobs for protesting a recent constitutional court ruling essentially banning all legal abortions.

Conservative governments in Poland and Hungary have railed against what they call "gender-ideology" and have either refused to ratify or threatened to pull out of a convention preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

Power helps

The EU agency's annual report measures the progress of gender equality in the EU, based on gaps between women and men in different areas, including work, money, time-sharing, power and health.

Sweden, Denmark and France are the "top performers" in gender equality, with Sweden and Denmark holding the top posts since 2013.

The most progress has been achieved in Italy, Luxembourg and Malta.

Greece, Hungary and Romania are lagging behind the rest of the EU, with Hungary having the lowest representation of women in the highest decision-making bodies.

Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands have seen the least improvements in gender equality since 2010.

The report makes it clear: improved gender equality in decision-making is the main driver of progress in the EU.

In the research, the domain of "power" - which measures the engagement of women and men in decision-making in politics, economics, media, research and sports - accounts for 65 percent of all progress since 2010, yet it remains the domain with the lowest rate of equality.

"The burden of unpaid care work, the segregation of work sectors, the alarming numbers of violent acts against women, and the lack of women in leadership roles will not solve themselves," MEP Evelyn Regner, chair of the women's rights committee in the European Parliament, said.

"We need action by all EU countries, and we need binding measures. Quotas for company boards have had the biggest impact on advancing gender equality," the Austrian MEP said, adding that women also need to be more visible.

The EU Commission plans to revive mandatory quotas of women on company boards, and binding measures on pay transparency later this year.

Coronavirus

Women hit hardest by corona economic crisis

While women are in the frontline on fighting the pandemic, they are also exposed more to the economic crisis that will follow. The pay gap could also grow. More security for flexible jobs, and investment in care work, could help.

Von der Leyen tells Poland and Hungary to go to court

Poland and Hungary should ask the EU's top court to assess linking EU funds to the respect of the rule of law instead of blocking the budget and recovery package, the EU Commission chief said, most MEPs backed her up.

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