Gender Equality under Review: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: EIGE 2023


On the 24th of October 2023, the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) launched its annual report on the 2023 Gender Equality Index. Every year, the Gender Equality Index stands as a tool to evaluate the progress of gender equality in the European Union. It assigns a score from 1 to 100 both to the EU as a whole and to its member states, based on the extent to which full gender equality is achieved between men and women. The primary aim of this Index is to pinpoint areas in need of improvement, assisting policymakers and evaluating progress. To offer a more authentic portray of the current situation, the Index was reinforced by a survey focused on the precise allocation of time for unpaid childcare, long-term care, and household duties. In 2023, the Gender Equality Index focuses on the impact of the European Green Deal's transition on gender equality, particularly in the energy and transportation sectors, thus supporting a sustainable and equal Europe.

The Good

For the first time, the Gender Equality Index has exceeded 70 points, marking a 1.6-point growth compared to 2022, constituting the most substantial year-on-year increase since the Index was first introduced in 2013. Paving the way for gender equality, Sweden (82.2), the Netherlands (77.9) and Belgium (76) have seen the highest increases. Belgium's advancements also extend to the European Commission's 2023 Report on Gender Equality in the EU, which highlights positive reforms within the criminal law sector. Simultaneously, Italy (68.2) stands out as the country experiencing the most significant transformation since the Index's inception.

The Bad

While the gender gap in care is narrowing, this is primarily attributed to reduced caregiving by women rather than increased male involvement. At the same time, financial crises and external shocks pose additional challenges for achieving gender equality, potentially hindering progress or even causing regression.  EIGE’s focus on the impact of the European Green Deal on gender equality is also particularly relevant, given the gendered effects of climate change. Notably, 80% of climate refugees are women, and gender-based violence tends to increase in environments marked by climate insecurity.  Moreover, considering the education sector's female-dominated composition, the ETUCE has also noted that climate change exerts a distinct and pronounced impact on education. The inadequate and unsafe working conditions stemming from climatic shifts render women especially vulnerable, particularly women in menopause or during pregnancy, who are more sensitive to elevated temperatures. Therefore, EIGE underscores the critical need for gender-disaggregated data and consistent data collection to better understand the connection between gender and energy poverty, enabling the development of transformative gender-focused policies.

The Ugly

The persistence of gender segregation in key sectors remains a concern. In the field of education, the ratio of women to men continues to be four times higher, a pattern that has endured since 2010. Furthermore, despite some advancements, the labour market remains just as gender segregated as it was a decade ago. Considering the current green and digital transitions, which require upskilling and reskilling workers, women face a higher risk of marginalisation due to their underrepresentation in STEM fields. This perpetuates the gender gap in employment opportunities, posing significant challenges for achieving true gender equality. However, it is worth noting a positive development highlighted in the 2023 EU Gender Equality Report. The European strategy for universities, introduced during the 2022 European Year of Youth, focuses on improving the gender balance among students and academic staff. This proactive approach addresses and rectifies existing gender disparities in STEM, offering hope for a more equitable future.

Moving Forward

Looking ahead, the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) embraces EIGE's findings in the 2023 Gender Equality Index and underscores the vital need for policy changes, with key entry points being: a) promoting women participation and leadership, b) strengthening women's resilience and adaptability, c) addressing gender and social inequality, and d) enhancing women's benefits from carbon improvements. As the Index reveals, the education sector within the European labour market continues to grapple with significant gender disparities. The ETUCE and its member organisations reiterate their dedication to address these challenges and to increase gender equality across all social tiers, following the various actions proposed in ETUCE Action Plan on Gender Equality.