The second European Gender Equality Week took place at the end of October 2021. However, the Gender Equality Index 2021 shows that the European Union is still far away from full gender equality.
On the initiative of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM), the European Parliament held the second European Gender Equality Week between 25 and 28 October 2021. Within this framework, various committees of the European Parliament hosted related events. This is testimony to the fact that European policy is increasingly focussing on women and gender equality policy.
The Gender Equality Index 2021 shows that this is absolutely necessary as Europe is still far away from achieving full gender equality. Within the scope of the Gender Equality Index, gender equality in EU Member States is evaluated in six domains: work, money, knowledge, time, power and health. In 2021, EU Member States only achieved a value of 68 on average, whereby a value of 100 would be equivalent to full equality in all analysed domains. Admittedly, there was some improvement compared to last year; however, at only 0.6 points, progress is almost negligible. Evelyn Regner (S&D), Chair of the FEMM Committee, calculates that at this speed full gender equality would be achieved in 2085 at the earliest. According to the Gender Equality Index, Austria ranks in the European mid-table and achieves exactly the value of 68 in 2021. Not least when it comes to wages, the inequality between women and men becomes obvious: in the EU, women are being paid 14.1 % less per hour than men, whereby socio-economic inequalities are often consolidated in form of financial dependence.
Unequal gender relations have become even more visible during the Covid-19 pandemic. It is an established fact: women are in many respects more affected by the negative impacts of the pandemic. First, it is mainly women, who work in system relevant or front-line sectors – for example in health and care services, retail and (elementary) education. The high level of workload in these women-dominated sectors is accompanied by low wages, which by no means reflect the social value of the services rendered. Apart from that, even before the pandemic women did the majority of unpaid work both at home and in respect of childcare, education and care. This phenomenon was even further intensified by the Covid-19 crisis, thereby resulting in a disproportionate burden to women. Not least domestic violence against women represents an urgent problem, which has become increasingly worse during the pandemic.
At the start of her term, Commission President von der Leyen had identified equality as a key priority of the Commission and presented a Gender Equality Strategy. As has been announced in von der Leyen’s second State of the Union Address, the Commission will introduce measures to prevent and combat violence against women at the beginning of December 2021. Furthermore, the Gender Pay Gap issue is now intensively dealt with at the EU level. In March 2021, the Commission had presented a Directive proposal, which aims to strengthen the principle of equal pay for men and women through pay transparency. The Directive proposal has already been comprehensively debated by the EU Parliament and shall be voted on in February 2022. The initiative by the EU Commission is to be welcomed as binding measures for pay transparency have been a long-term demand of the AK to close the gender pay gap.
Particularly in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, which had a far more severe effect on women than on men, the goal of equality must be effectively pursued and given political priority. Even though the plans of the EU Commission are heading in the right direction, ambitious measures to achieve full gender equality in the EU are required. To accomplish this, gender equality should also be a key target of the green and digital transition to ensure that it is realised as part of the development of an inclusive economy in accordance with a Just Transition. It is therefore necessary to create a gender just reconstruction of the European economy.