Gender equality

01 March 2020

Equal treatment of men and women has been a fundamental principle of the European Union since its inception. In 1957, the principle of equal pay for equal work became part of the Treaty of Rome. Since then, European institutions regularly reaffirm the principle, promoting it as a core value of the EU.

This principle has been restated in the 1976 Directive on equal treatment between men and women. As more women are entering the labour market, the EU and Member States reaffirm their commitment to promoting gender equality, advances in the education of women and progress towards closing the gender pay and employment gaps. Looking towards the future, the European Commission’s ‘Strategic engagement for gender equality 2016–2019’ has been created as a reference framework, underlying the need for an increased effort at all levels of policymaking towards improving gender equality. It also supports the 2011–2020 European Pact for gender equality. 

Eurofound’s work

Eurofound implements a gender mainstreaming approach which is transversal to its research in the areas of working conditions, industrial relations, labour market change, quality of life and public services. For instance, topics such as pay and income, care, employment participation, leave, skills and training, work organisation, working time and work–life balance, among others, are covered from a gender perspective across various strands of Eurofound’s work, in its pan-European surveys and regular reporting at national level.

Key contributions

A recent report by Eurofound on working time patterns for sustainable work examines, from a gender and life course perspective, the links between working time patterns, work–life balance and working time preferences, on the one hand, and workers’ health and well-being on the other.

Eurofound has carried out a study examining patterns of social mobility across the EU, looking at barriers to equal opportunities and policies to promote it. It analyses patterns of social mobility for men and women separately, underlining and highlighting the increasingly important gendered patterns of social mobility in different countries.  

A previous study on the gender employment gap explores the characteristics and consequences of gender gaps in labour market participation, as well as potential ways of closing these gaps.

Featured: The gender employment gap: Challenges and solutions

11 October 2016 - Women’s labour market participation in the European Union has increased over recent decades, passing 70% in 2014. Nevertheless, women’s employment and participation rates are still lower than those of men in almost all Member States. This report explores the main characteristics and consequences of gender gaps in labour market participation. It finds that the total cost of a lower female employment rate was €370 billion in 2013, corresponding to 2.8% of EU GDP. The report also examines policies and measures aimed at fostering female labour market participation, which could be central to closing gender gaps.
The gender employment gap: Challenges and solutions

The growing participation of women in the labour market has prompted changes in the way European social partner organisations tackle gender issues. Research has also assessed the role of the EU social partners in advancing gender equality in the EU.

The European Jobs Monitor (EJM) analyses occupational segregation by gender and wage inequalities. Gender equality is also covered in regular updates on pay and working time across the EU and in regular reporting at national level via Eurofound’s European Observatory of Working Life.

Survey data

Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) aims to provide a wide picture of the situation of men and women at work in Europe. In recent questionnaires, gender mainstreaming has been an important topic. The survey monitors a broad spectrum of issues, occupational, sectoral, time and pay gaps, as well as work–life balance and health and well-being. The sixth EWCS, carried out in 2015, shows inequalities and differences in terms of gender, employment status and occupation.

The European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) also covers the gender dimension, in relation to issues such as employment, income, education, family and care responsibilities, health and work–life balance.

The European Company Survey (ECS) reports on the issue of gender balance in relation to workplace policies and practices across Europe, including working time and take-up of leave.

Gender Equality Index

Eurofound cooperates with the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) on gender-related topics and data from both the EWCS and the EQLS feed into EIGE’s Gender Equality Index.


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