24 January 2023
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.
- Infographic March 2022: Gender equality in the EU
- Eurofound Talks podcast + interview with EIGE 8 March 2022: Gender equality
Watch the webinar - #EurofoundLive: Building a stronger Europe - Making the European Care Strategy work
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 past decades, albeit at a slow pace.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 past decades, albeit at a slow pace. The Gender Equality Index score for the EU in 2021 was 68.0 points out of 100. This is an improvement of just 0.6 points since the 2020 edition and of only 4.9 points in total since 2010. Two decades into the 21st century, gender inequalities persist in many areas, including in employment, working conditions and quality of life. As part of the European Commission’s work programme, gender equality remains an important policy priority, with the goal being to roll out the new European Gender Equality Strategy.
On 5 March 2020, the Commission launched a new Gender Equality Strategy 2020–2025. 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’. As one of the first deliverables of the Strategy, the Commission presented a proposal for a pay transparency directive on 4 March 2021, which was subsequently backed by the European Parliament on 5 April 2022.
From 24 to 30 October 2022, the European Parliament held its third European Gender Equality Week, at the initiative of the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee (FEMM). Parliament committees hosted discussions on a range of issues linked to gender equality. During the week, the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) also published the findings of its Gender Equality Index 2022.
- European Commission: Gender Equality Strategy 2020–2025
- European Commission: Proposal for pay transparency directive
- European Parliament: European Gender Equality Week - October 24-30, 2022
- European Commission: 2022 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 is 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. 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
The COVID-19 pandemic risks rolling back years of progress on gender equality. Eurofound’s e-survey Living, working and COVID-19 offers an insight into the impact of the pandemic on the lives of EU citizens. Conducted in five rounds during 2020, 2021 and 2022, it allows for comparison of the challenges that arose during the different stages of living through the pandemic. Findings show that COVID-19 is impacting gender equality at home. The pandemic has significantly increased the number of teleworkers in Europe, and women were more likely to work from home during the pandemic than men. Furthermore, the closure of schools and childcare facilities during confinement disproportionately impacted women, who generally assumed 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. The COVID-19 survey questionnaire drew on questions used in Eurofound’s pan-European surveys, the European Quality of Life Survey (EQLS) and the European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS).
- Publication: COVID-19 pandemic and the gender divide at work and home (13 October 2022)
- Publication: Fifth round of the Living, working and COVID-19 e-survey: Living in a new era of uncertainty (7 July 2022)
- Podcast series: Eurofound Talks
- Blog: Good news for gender equality as we exit the COVID-19 crisis?
- Blog: COVID-19 intensifies emotional demands on healthcare workers
- Blog: COVID-19 fallout takes a higher toll on women, economically and domestically
In May 2020, Eurofound launched 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 €320 billion in 2018. Although the cost of the gap is falling, 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.
Eurofound reviewed the first experiences of countries with gender pay transparency measures in 2018. 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) 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 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 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. On 3 March 2022, at Eurofound’s Forum 2022 on recovery and resilience in the EU, EIGE participated in the session on the future of work. And to mark International Women's Day on 8 March 2022, the two Agencies held a joint webinar to reassess gender inequalities in the labour market in light of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. On 24 October 2022, Eurofound will host a workshop at EIGE’s Gender Equality Forum 2022 with an interactive panel discussion on living and working in Europe in an era of disruption. In 2021, the two Agencies collaborated on a joint webinar 'Gender equality: It's not all about pay' and on a joint project on upward convergence in the various dimensions of the Gender Equality Index. Other areas for collaboration include the socioeconomic impact of COVID-19 on women and gender equality, the thematic analysis of the EJM on gender and age, as well as research on platform work.
- EIGE: Gender Equality Index
- Eurofound: Foundation Forum 2022
- Joint event: Watch the webinar: #AskTheExpert: Reassessing gender inequalities in the labour market: impact of COVID-19 pandemic
- Eurofound @EIGE Gender Equality Forum 2022: Living and working in Europe in an era of disruption: Gendered impacts, challenges and opportunities
- Joint event: Watch the webinar - #AskTheExpert: Gender equality – It’s not all about pay
- EIGE: Covid-19 and gender equality
- Joint publication: Upward convergence in gender equality: How close is the Union of equality?
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.
COVID-19 and gender equality
- The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the labour market was remarkably gender-neutral at EU level, partly reflecting women’s overrepresentation in sectors that were shut down, but also their concentration in teleworkable jobs and essential sectors. However, research findings show that during the COVID-19 crisis, job loss for women has been most prevalent among the lowest-paid workers, while job loss for men has been more evenly distributed.
- Work–life conflicts increased dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among teleworking mothers of young children. As Europe emerges from the pandemic, policymakers need to take note of that the fact that voluntary, flexible work arrangements – most likely to be adopted by women – can also mean increased unpaid workload and lower visibility in the workplace, with long-term consequences for career progression, pay and pensions.
- The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the critical role of care services in supporting women’s labour market participation, financial security and overall well-being. It is essential that Member States support the provision of good-quality, accessible and affordable care services in all areas, while addressing staff shortages and improving the working conditions in these sectors.
- The post-pandemic recovery is an opportunity to bring about real change in gender norms, behaviours, and policy innovation. It will be crucial for policymakers, including social partners, to prioritise gender issues while continuing to monitor and evaluate progress.
- The gender employment gap in the EU continues to narrow. Around 46% of EU workers are women compared to 40% a generation ago. However, the gender employment gap has stagnated in recent years and stood at 11.7 percentage points in 2019, costing the EU €320 billion annually. COVID-19 measures have disproportionately affected low-paying service sectors with a majority of female workers, forcing more women out of the labour market.
- 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 which may widen the gender pay gap (at 14.1% in 2019).
- 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
- As well as the clear economic objective to close the gender employment gap, there is also a social imperative due to its implications for women’s lives, including their financial security and quality of life.
o Publication: Women and labour market equality: Has COVID-19 rolled back recent gains?
Publications & dataTop
The sections below provide access to a range of publications, data and ongoing work on this topic.
- Publications (642)
- Ongoing work
Eurofound publications come in a variety of formats, including reports, policy briefs, blogs, articles and presentations.
A selection of related data on this topic are linked below.
- Data: Living, working and COVID-19 data
- Data: Gender employment gap in Europe, by country, 2009-2019
- Data: Gender employment gap in Europe, interactive presentation by country, 2009-2019
- Data: Cost of the gender employment gap in EU, 2009-2018
- Data: Level of the gender employment gap in EU and United Kingdom, in percentage points, 2009-2019
- 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.