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What is the EU doing for women's rights and gender equality?

European Commission - Fact Sheet

Questions and Answers: What is the EU doing for women's rights and gender equality?
Brussels, 8 March 2018

What are the priorities of the Commission in terms of gender equality?

In December 2015, the Commission presented the "Strategic engagement for gender equality 2016-2019". It represents the work programme for gender equality policy during this Commission's mandate.
The Strategic engagement outlined five priority areas:
• increasing female labour-market participation and the equal economic independence of women and men;
• reducing the gender pay, earnings and pension gaps and thus fighting poverty among women;
• promoting equality between women and men in decision-making;
• combating gender-based violence and protecting and supporting victims; and
• promoting gender equality and women's rights across the world.
In 2017 the European Commission concentrated its efforts on two lines of actions. In November, the Commission announced concrete action to reduce the gender pay gap through an Action Plan to be delivered between now and the end of the Commission’s mandate in 2019. In the Action Plan it urges the European Parliament and the Member States to adopt swiftly the work-life balance proposal of April 2017; calls for arrangements to facilitate the adoption of the Directive on gender balance in the largest listed companies, and encourages governments and social partners to adopt concrete measures to improve gender balance in decision-making.
The second line of actions on which the European Commission concentrated its efforts was to combat violence against women and girls. 2017 was dedicated as a Year of Focused Actions on Ending Violence against Women. This year’s Annual Fundamental Rights Colloquium on Women’s Rights in Turbulent Times, addressed violence and harassment against women in our societies as well as the economic and political inequality between women and men, particularly focusing on the gender pay gap and on work-life balance.
What are the key findings of the 2018 Commission's Report on equality between women and men?
• Female employment continued increase slowly but steadily and reached 66.6 % in the third quarter of 2017. Despite this progress, women are still a long way off achieving full economic independence. According to a recent survey, in comparison to men, women still tend to be employed less, are employed in lower-paid sectors, work on average 6 hours longer per week than men, but have fewer paid hours, take more career breaks, and face fewer and slower promotions.
• Moreover, women in the EU still earn on average over 16 % less per hour than men. The gap varies greatly from one Member State to another, pointing also to a current trade-off between low gender wage gaps and high female employment rates.
• As regards decision-making, women account for just a quarter of board members in the largest publicly listed companies registered in EU Member States. France is the only Member State in which there was at least 40 % of each gender at board level.
• The situation is equally diverse in politics: National parliaments in Sweden, Finland and Spain included at least 40 % of each gender, while in six countries (Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Latvia, Malta and HY) women accounted for less than 20 % of members. Similarly, Governments were gender balanced in France, Germany, Slovenia and Sweden while women were completely absent from the Hungarian government.
• Gender-based violence remains prominently present in our daily life. According to the EIGE ‘Gender Equality Index 2017: Measurement framework of violence against women’, on a scale of 1 to 100, 1 represents a situation where violence is non-existent and 100 represents a situation where violence against women is extremely common, highly severe and not disclosed, the EU’s score is 27.5 out of 100. The score varies between countries, ranging from 22.1 in Poland to 44.2 in Bulgaria.
What are the latest trends on the economic independence of women?
In 2017, female employment continued increase slowly but steadily, similarly to that of men’s, and reached 66.6 % in the third quarter of 2017 (see Figure 1). Despite this progress, women are still a long way off achieving full economic independence. The gender gap in employment has stagnated for the last few years at around 11 percentage points (11.5 in 2017q3) and has reached more than 18 percentage points in terms of full-time equivalent. No considerable catch-up has been observed between low and high performing Member States. Greece, Italy, Malta and Romania are among the worst performers on the gender employment gap, compared to the best performers Latvia, Lithuania and Latvia and Sweden (see Figure 2).

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