Eeva Raevaara: Striving to create an equal Europe
Gender inequality is a reality in the EU in many areas of life. Statistics show persistent gender pay and pension gaps and a higher risk of poverty for women than for men. Single parents are particularly hard pressed financially.
According to the Gender Equality Index of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), in its fourth edition in October 2019, we still have a long way to go to achieve an equal Europe: the EU as a whole has a gender equality score of 67.4, while 100 stands for full equality.
Gender equality on the agenda of Finland’s Presidency
What kind of Europe could guarantee economic equality for women and men? How can we make it a reality? These issues have been addressed during Finland’s Presidency of the Council of the EU.
The theme we have selected, gender equal economies, looks at the two-way relationship between gender equality and the economy: gender equality as part of sustainable economic growth, and economic policy as a promoter of equality.
Gender equality issues are particularly topical in the EU right now, as the new Commission is starting its work and future strategies for gender equality and economic policies are being prepared. The goal is to strengthen the EU’s gender equality policy and, in parallel, improve the links between equality policy and economic policy. How to achieve gender-responsive EU budgeting has also been raised for discussion.
Cross-policy cooperation needed to promote gender equality
A high-level conference entitled Europe for Gender Equality? Taking Stock – Taking Action was hosted by Finland in Helsinki in late September 2019. The keynote speaker was Shahra Razavi, Chief of Research and Data at UN Women. She underlined that effective social security and effective social services are prerequisites for sustainable and inclusive economic growth. The conference also discussed gender-responsive budgeting and how the European Semester could work as a driver of both economic growth and gender equality.
Particularly fruitful were the discussions that brought together budget and gender experts as well as other key actors across policy boundaries. It was generally agreed that the strong gender equality agenda of the new President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen and her approach to economic policies from the Sustainable Development Goals perspective provide a good basis for promoting gender equality in the EU.
The debate on gender equality and equitable economies will resume in December, as the ministers of EU member states convene in the Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council. In the future, this dialogue would ideally ignore policy boundaries so that joint discussions could be held, for instance, between the EPSCO and Ecofin Councils.