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Gender inequality in the European Union

  • Written by  Benjamin Hennig
  • Published in Mapping
Gender inequality in the European Union Benjamin Hennig
02 Nov
2017
How are the EU member nations faring in the fight for gender equality?

It is a complex task to measure the progress that has been made in achieving equal gender rights. The UN's Sustainable Development Goals provide a framework for the global level that is targeted at the most pressing issues of gender-based discrimination. In addition to that, national governments as well as trans-national organisations such as the European Union have started concerted efforts to better understand the progress that is made in the different areas that relate to gender equality. This is often linked to developing new policies that aim to improve the situation in the different areas where gender issues matter.

The European Institute for Gender Equality has developed a Gender Equality Index that provides a measure for comparing member states over time in a range of areas relevant to European policymaking. The advantage of using an index is the possibility of using a single measure to monitor and track overall progress between the different countries. The combination of different indicators therefore does not prioritise a single issue of gender rights, but aims to support overall progress as an integrated challenge for achieving real change in thinking.

The above cartogram (click to enlarge) shows the state of progress that has been made by the 28 EU member states visualised on a population cartogram. A score of zero indicates total inequality in all areas, while an index value of 100 stands for full equality. In the most recent study, the EU-28 achieved an overall score of 52.9 with slow (but continuing) increases compared to the previous releases of the Index in 2005 and 2010. The index combines the areas of work, money, knowledge, time, power, and health, and also takes intersecting inequalities and violence into account.

The population cartogram shows that the countries with the highest progress are those with relatively small populations. Sweden currently is highest with an overall score of 74.2 (slightly down from its 74.4 score in 2010). The cartogram also shows there are distinct geographic patterns to gender equality across the EU, with the southern and eastern countries currently scoring worst. Romania is at the bottom with a score of 33.7 (down from 35.0), showing how these patterns that are emerging in the map are quite persistent and requiring considerably political efforts to change.

Benjamin Hennig (@geoviews) is Associate Professor of Geography at the University of Iceland and Honorary Research Associate in the School of Geography and the Environment at the University of Oxford. He is involved in the Worldmapper project and is author of viewsoftheworld.net

For more on the issue of tackling gender inequality across the world, read our in-depth Dossier in the November 2017 edition of Geographical magazine, available now in print and digital formats.

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