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Sweden EU's top performer on gender equality

Sweden EU's top performer on gender equality

Photo © endostock - Fotolia

(VILNIUS) - Gender equality in Europe is progressing at a snail's pace, according to an updated Gender Equality Index published Wednesday, showing Sweden as the top-performing country and Greece at the bottom.

The Gender Equality Index, released by the Lithuania-based European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), is a composite indicator that measures the complex concept of gender equality and, based on the EU policy framework, assists in monitoring progress of gender equality across the EU over time.

The score for the EU as a whole is a mere four points higher than ten years ago, now 66.2 out of 100, says EIGE. Sweden has a score of 82.6, while Greece has moved to the bottom with 50 points. The award for the most improved country goes to Italy, which made a big leap and gained 12.9 points to place itself at rank 14 on the ladder.

"We are still a long way off from reaching a gender-equal society," said EIGE Director Virginija Langbakk, "and all countries in the European Union have room to improve. In some areas, the gaps are even bigger than ten years ago. Our Gender Equality Index clearly shows whether government policies are matching the specific needs of women and men and whether they are working or not."

"Europe has a duty to act," said the EU Commissioner for Gender Equality Vera Jourova, who promised that Europe will later this year propose "further measures to help empower women and bring equal pay for equal work".

The biggest boost for gender equality over the last ten years has been in the area of decision-making, especially in the private sector, according to the Index. This shows that political and public pressure can work and it did well to bring change on private company boards. Although gender equality in decision-making improved by nearly 10 points over the past decade to reach 48.5, it still has the lowest score. This largely reflects the uneven representation of women and men in politics and marks a democratic deficit in EU governance.

This year, the Gender Equality Index presented a new and more comprehensive picture of power. In addition to political and economic decision-making, the results show who rules in the areas of media, research and sports. In the media landscape, there are clearly more women who study journalism (two thirds of graduates) but few make it to the top. The decision-makers in the media are mostly men (women make up 22% of board presidents of public broadcasters in the EU). In the area of research funding, women make up less than a third (27 %) of the heads of research funding organisations. The situation is even worse in the sports sector, where women hold only 14% of top positions in the sports federations across the EU.

The Index shows that progress has slipped backwards in 12 countries when it comes to the time use of women and men. Only every third man engages daily in cooking and housework, compared to almost every women (79%). Men also have more time for sporting, cultural and leisure activities. Migrant women have an especially high burden when it comes to caring for family members, compared to women born in the EU (46% and 38% respectively).

For the first time, this edition of the Index shows gaps among different groups of women and men. Depending on a person's age, education, country of birth, disability and family type their life can be completely different to the rest of the population. For example, people with a migrant background are twice at risk of poverty than women and men born in the EU. Young men are missing out on educational opportunities compared to young women and lone mothers have more difficulties to access health and dental services than couples with children.

Gender Equality Index 2017

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