9 July 2020
Gender equality refers to equality between women and men with respect to their rights, treatment, responsibilities, opportunities, and economic and social achievements.Read more
Gender equality refers to equality between women and men with respect to their rights, treatment, responsibilities, opportunities, and economic and social achievements. Gender equality is achieved when men and women have the same rights, responsibilities and opportunities across all sections of society and when the different interests, needs and priorities of men and women are equally valued.Read less
Webinar: #AskTheExpert - The impact of COVID-19 for people living and working in Europe: How can policymakers respond?
Gender equality is a core value of the EU, a fundamental right, a critical component of economic growth and a key principle of the European Pillar of Social Rights. In this light, the EU has been making progress in the gender equality field over the last decades.Read more
Gender equality is a core value of the EU, a fundamental right, a critical component of economic growth and a key principle of the European Pillar of Social Rights. In this light, the EU has been making progress in the gender equality field over the last decades. Despite progress, however, two decades into the 21st century, gender inequalities in labour markets, employment, quality of life and at work persist. As part of the new European Commission’s adjusted 2020 programme, gender equality remains an important policy priority, with the goal being to roll out a new European Gender Equality Strategy and improve on the 2019 Gender Equality Index score of 67.4 for the EU.
On 5 March 2020, the Commission launched a new Gender Equality Strategy 2020–2025, which will be followed by binding pay transparency measures by the end of 2020. The Strategy’s main topics are: violence against women; pay transparency and the gender pay gap; gender balance on company boards; and work–life balance. It is also guided by the vision of ‘a Europe where women and men are free to pursue their chosen path in life, where they have equal opportunities to thrive, and where they can equally participate in and lead our European society’.
- European Commission: Gender Equality Strategy 2020–2025
- European Commission: Proposal for a directive: Gender pay gap – transparency on pay for men and women
- European Commission: 2020 Commission Work Programme – key documents
- European Commission: Gender equality
- European Commission: European Pillar of Social Rights
- Eurostat: Gender pay gap statistics
- Eurostat: Gender employment gap in the EU
The COVID-19 pandemic is having vast implications on health, well-being, quality of life, the labour market and the economy. It is also having a multifaceted impact on gender equality at work and at home. Promoting gender equality will be at the heart of the EU policy response to the crisis, in line with the Gender Equality Strategy.
- European Commission: How will the COVID-19 crisis affect existing gender divides in Europe?
Eurofound adopts a gender mainstreaming approach systematically in its research. Where possible and relevant, research findings, including surveys and policy analyses, disaggregate data by gender. Other research projects provide specific analysis relevant to gender equality.Read more
Eurofound adopts a gender mainstreaming approach systematically in its research. Where possible and relevant, research findings, including surveys and policy analyses, disaggregate data by gender. Other research projects provide specific analysis relevant to gender equality. The research covers a wider variety of topics from a gender perspective, such as pay and income, minimum wage, care, employment participation, leave, skills and training, work organisation, job quality, working time, work–life balance and upward convergence, including in pan-European surveys and regular reporting at national level.
COVID-19 and gender equality
Early indications on the impact of COVID-19 on gender equality suggest that women may be disproportionately impacted in a number of areas. This includes employment, where 75% of those working in the health sector in the EU are women. The labour market stressors of COVID-19 will most likely exacerbate existing trends, where women already report higher levels of emotional demand at work.
Eurofound’s launched an online survey in April 2020 to assess the impact of the pandemic on the lives of Europeans. First findings show that COVID-19 may be impacting gender equality at home. The pandemic has significantly increased the number of teleworkers in Europe, particularly among women. Furthermore, the closure of schools and childcare facilities during confinement disproportionately impacts women, who generally assume greater domestic and care responsibilities.
The findings also reveal a general deterioration of work–life balance among workers in the EU with more women and men reporting work–life conflicts, but women who have to telework and care for small children appear to be struggling most. The percentage of women reporting difficulties was higher in April 2020 than in previous Eurofound surveys. Women are also reporting greater financial strain than men during the pandemic.
- Blog: COVID-19 fallout takes a higher toll on women, economically and domestically
- Publication: Living, working and COVID-19: First findings – April 2020
In May 2020, Eurofound launched COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch, a new database collating and mapping the national-level policy responses during the pandemic introduced across Europe. Some of these measures have a gender dimension.
Employment and gender
Eurofound research explores the characteristics and consequences of gender gaps in labour market participation, as well as policies and measures aimed at fostering female labour market participation. Women’s employment and participation rates are still lower than those of men in almost all EU Member States. Eurofound has estimated the cost of this gender employment gap in the EU at more than €360 billion in 2018, which will be reviewed in 2020. Although this is on a downward trend, the economic loss is still significantly high. Research also looks at upward convergence in the gender employment gap, assessing which are the best and worst-performing Member States in this regard.
The European Jobs Monitor (EJM) tracks structural change in European labour markets in terms of occupation and sector, giving a qualitative assessment of these shifts using various proxies of job quality. This monitoring includes analysis of patterns of employment change by gender and by job-wage quintile, as well as labour market segregation.
Wages and gender
Eurofound research covers a range of topics linking wages and gender, such as variable pay, performance-related pay, low pay and the gender pay gap. Survey research looks at earnings as one of seven indicators of job quality for men and women at work. On minimum wages, an annual review monitors the level of minimum wages across Europe, also measuring coverage rates of workers by gender in 2019 and the link with the gender pay gap. Furthermore, the EJM analyses the extent to which different jobs, occupations and sectors contribute to the gender pay gap. This will be useful for the interpretation of the Commission’s social scoreboard’s indicator on the gender pay gap and for the implementation of the gender-equality principle of the European Pillar of Social Rights.
As one of the first deliverables of the Gender Equality Strategy, the Commission will propose binding pay transparency measures by the end of 2020. In 2018, Eurofound reviewed the first experiences of countries with gender pay transparency measures. At the Commission’s request, Eurofound has initiated an ad hoc study on measures to promote gender pay transparency in companies, looking at how much they cost and whether companies can see any opportunities. This will feed into the Commission’s impact assessment.
Working conditions and gender
Eurofound’s European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) kicks off its seventh edition in 2020 and covers a range of aspects of working conditions from a gender perspective. In recent questionnaires, gender mainstreaming has been an important topic. The survey monitors occupational, sectoral, time and pay gaps, as well as working time patterns, work–life balance, violence and harassment at work, and health and well-being, including what all this means for sustainable work.
EWCS analysis will help to inform policies aimed at closing gender gaps in the area of job and employment quality. The knowledge provided is relevant for the principle of gender equality and initiatives to improve work–life balance, as well as those included in the context of the European Pillar of Social Rights.
Research also looks at the experience of women in management roles and how their underrepresentation in management can be addressed. It analyses the job quality of both male and female managers, and the impact a management job has on personal life.
Other research analyses the level of female entrepreneurship in Europe and the market gap when it comes to investing in women-led enterprises. It examines the financial hurdles facing female entrepreneurs and the use of private or public funds to invest in this group. In addition, it investigates the prevalence of public finance tools and public support schemes that effectively remove barriers and enable women to become competent entrepreneurs.
The higher 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, exploring actions taken within the different national frameworks of industrial relations and against the ranking of Member States on EIGE’s Gender Equality Index.
Moreover, Eurofound has worked on a joint project with the International Labour Organization (ILO) to look at working conditions in a global perspective. It expands on gender gaps across the world (1.2 billion workers) and provides evidence on the gendered differences in job quality and on higher risk of women to be exposed to sexual violence; the latter is also identified in EWCS 2015.
Quality of life and gender
The European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) also covers the gender dimension, in relation to issues such as employment, income, risk of poverty, household composition and well-being, education, family and care responsibilities, health and work–life balance.
Both the EWCS and EQLS data contribute to the policy debate on reconciliation issues and work–life balance for men and women. The EQLS looks at the difference between men and women in their levels of life satisfaction or happiness. The gendered division of unpaid work, in relation to for example childcare or caring for elderly relatives, is also covered in the EQLS.
Research on patterns of social mobility for men and women across the EU also looks at barriers to equal opportunities and policies to promote it. It highlights the increasingly important gendered patterns of social mobility in different countries.
Eurofound collaboration with EIGE
Eurofound also cooperates with the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) on gender-related topics. Eurofound is a key data provider for EIGE’s Gender Equality Index and is involved in the working group for this indicator. Other areas for collaboration include the thematic analysis of the EJM on gender and age, research on labour shortages, considering the potential relevance in terms of the gender dimension, gender inequalities in unpaid care work, as well as long-term care and convergence in gender gaps.Read less
Key outputs over the years
Based on Eurofound's work on this topic, a number of policy pointers can be suggested.Read more
Based on Eurofound's work on this topic, a number of policy pointers can be suggested.
- The gender employment gap in the EU continues to narrow. Around 46% of EU workers are women compared to 40% a generation ago.
- Women continue to be significantly overrepresented in low-paying jobs, but female employment has been growing faster than male employment in the highest-paying jobs, which are those accounting for the top 20% of employment by average wage.
- Observatory: European Jobs Monitor
- Women are overrepresented among the low paid and minimum wage earners in nearly all EU Member States.
- Publication: Minimum wages in 2020: Annual review
- Variable forms of pay, such as shares in the company or payments based on company performance, are becoming more common. These pay components are increasing more rapidly among men than women and the gender gap is therefore widening.
- Publication: Gender equality at work
- Simpler versions of gender pay reporting do not pose major obstacles for companies. But reporting and auditing requirements become more meaningful when they include more complex and thorough data and analysis, including various components of pay beyond basic salaries and extra information, such as length of working experience or tenure of the employees.
- Gender inequalities in labour markets, employment and at work stretch well beyond labour market segmentation and gender pay gaps, and lie also within the working conditions and job quality that women and men experience in their jobs across countries, sectors and occupations.
- Men report higher levels of quantitative demands at work, whereas women are much more likely to report exposure to emotional demands, such as handling angry clients, patients or pupils, or being in situations that are emotionally disturbing.
- Publication: Gender equality at work
- Women are underrepresented as managers in almost all economic sectors. Management is most gender-balanced in the public sector, although men dominate here too.
Quality of life
- Women and men have similar subjective well-being across Europe. However, when controlling for other factors (especially income), women have higher life satisfaction than men, and it is presumed that lower average income contributes to a reduction in women’s average well-being.
- Most nuclear families are dual-earning and have the most unbalanced allocation of unpaid work: women do the most housework, and many have problems with work–life balance.
- Women are twice as likely to provide long-term care than men every day. The difference is highest at age 50–64.
- Publication: European Quality of Life Survey 2016
Publications & dataTop
The sections below provide access to a range of publications, data and ongoing work on this topic.
- Publications (638)
- Ongoing work (1)
Eurofound publications come in a variety of formats, including reports, policy briefs, blogs, articles and presentations.
Webinar: #AskTheExpert - The impact of COVID-19 for people living and working in Europe: How can policymakers respond?Event 10 June 2020
EU Presidency of Croatia conference on Gender Equality: Participation of women on the labour market – Benefit for society!Event 30 January 2020
Women in management: If we want to get serious about gender equality we need to talk about job qualityBlog 7 March 2019
A selection of related data on this topic are linked below.
- Data: Gender employment gap in Europe, by country, 2008-2018
- Data: Gender employment gap in Europe, interactive presentation by country, 2008-2018
- Data: Cost of the gender employment gap for EU and United Kingdom, 2008-2018
- Data: Level of the gender employment gap in EU and United Kingdom, in percentage points, 2008-2018
- Data: European Working Conditions Survey – Data visualisation (filter by sex)
- Data: European Quality of Life Survey 2016 – Data visualisation (filter by sex)
- Data: European Jobs Monitor (filter by gender)
- Data: EU convergence monitoring hub – Convergence: Socioeconomic factors (Dimension 4: Gender equality)
Research continues in this topic on a variety of themes, which are outlined below with links to forthcoming titles.
Other ongoing work
- Forthcoming policy brief: The cost of the gender employment gap