Gender equality can be measured in various ways, for example, in terms of unemployment, pay gap, educational level, and unequal treatment. When it comes to unemployment, European countries differ noticeably. For instance, a comparison between two Nordic countries and Italy can be representative of this difference. The unemployment rate in Finland is comparable for men and women. Similarly, in Sweden this figure was only 0.2 percent higher for women than for men in 2019. In Italy, the unemployment rate is 2 percentage points higher for women than for men. However, the economic inactivity rate in Italy is over 20 percent higher among women than among men. This means that a large percentage of women does not participate in the labor market, neither as employed or unemployed. The reasons for such disparities have various origins. Together with a difficult job market, the society in Italy is still strongly patriarchal. For example, many women choose to give up their career in order to take care of their family, in a much larger measure compared to other European countries.
Gender pay gap is a further indicator of gender equality. In many sectors, figures on average salaries are higher for men. This disparity has generally been decreasing over the past years. For instance, in the United Kingdom male employees were paid 12.2 percent more than their female colleagues in 2009. Ten years later, this figure decreased to 8.9 percent. In some Eastern European countries, the gender pay gap is much higher. In Slovakia and in Czechia, the gender pay gap in the private sector is in favor of men by around 20 percent, while in Hungary it is at about 14 percent. Nevertheless, the situation has improved over the last ten years.
Additionally to measurable inequalities, perceptions on gender equality are relevant to be able to contextualize this issue. Even where data show that gender inequality exists in larger proportions, people might not be aware of this or they might not perceive it as an issue to fight. A worldwide survey from 2019 reveals that people believe employer policies represent an obstacle in achieving gender equality. However, the understanding that everyone must be treated in the same way could be taught within primary education. Combatting gender inequality in the labor market could start with a more gender-neutral approach to children, rethinking the gender education.