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Gender equality in Europe - Statistics & Facts

Gender inequality is the acknowledgment that women and men are not equal, consequently leading to unequal treatments and perceptions of individuals due to their gender. The debate about gender inequality is increasing worldwide, leading to new movements and contextualizing issues never faced before. However, some countries perform better than others when measuring gender equality. In the 2020 Global Gender Gap Index, Europe held the top four spots for gender equality, with Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden ranking first through fourth, respectively. Among the ten leading countries in the ranking, Ireland, Spain, and Latvia followed with high scores.

Gender equality can be measured in various ways, for example, in terms of unemployment, pay gap, educational level, access to health services, and equal treatment in general. 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 Sweden is the same for men and women, while in Finland there are more unemployed males than females. In Italy, the unemployment rate is roughly two percentage points higher for women than for men. However, the economic inactivity rate in Italy is 20 percent higher among women than among men. This means that a large percentage of women do not participate in the labor market, and are neither employed nor unemployed. The reasons for such disparities have various origins. Together with a difficult job market, Italian society is still strongly patriarchal. For example, many women choose to give up their career in order to take care of their family in larger measure when compared to other European countries. Overall, in the European Union men are employed full-time to a higher degree than women, regardless of age group. Among 25 to 49 year olds, 84 percent of males were employed, compared to 65 percent of females.

Gender pay gap is a further indicator of gender equality. In many sectors, average salaries are higher for men. This disparity has generally been decreasing over the past years. As mentioned, the unemployment rate in Finland stands at a higher rate for men than for women. Nevertheless, Finland has one of the highest gender pay gaps among OECD countries. Out of 30 countries worldwide, Finland records the fourth highest wage disparity between women and men, after Korea, Japan, and Israel. Italy, instead, has one of the lowest disparities in salaries between men and women in the European Union, as well as among OECD countries. Data taking into account equalities in economic participation, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment place Italy in one of the last positions, while Finland performs better than any other EU country. On the whole, in Europe the average gender pay gap decreased to 15 percent.


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