Examining Issues of Gender Equality in the EU

seesaw gender equality


Equality between women and men is one of the founding values of the European Union, dating back to signing of the Treaty of Rome in 1957. However, there are still considerable differences between the employment experiences of men and women, and in how they reconcile work and family life.


The European Commission's Directorate-General for Justice, which is responsible for gender equality, commissioned RAND Europe together with the University of Groningen to investigate these issues by analysing data from household surveys (European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions and the EU Labour Force Survey). These specific topics were explored in a series of short statistical reports:

  • The availability and use of childcare serves in the EU Member states and progress towards the Barcelona objectives
  • Parents at work: men and women participating in the labour force
  • Single parents and employment in Europe
  • Gender inequalities in the school-to-work transition in Europe
  • Emerging trends in household earnings structures
  • Family-related working schedule flexibility across Europe


The summary report compiles the core findings from the six short reports, and includes the following

  • Large gender disparities in the employment situation exist between parents and non-parents
  • Socio-economic gradients (such as differences in educational level and income) have an effect on access to childcare and the labour market and on enjoying a healthy work-life balance
  • Mothers in many western European countries continue to have a lower rate of employment, experience underemployment and work fewer hours than women without children, and men
  • Women spend far greater hours in domestic work than men, even when the woman is the main or sole earner
  • There are disparities in couples relating to their earnings and the division of household labour
  • Long-standing social norms play a role in perpetuating gender inequality in employment - the male partner as the sole or main provider remains the dominant household model across Europe
  • Single parents (men and women) are more vulnerable to the challenge of work-life reconciliation
  • Denmark, Sweden, Iceland and France are the forerunners in relation to childcare and meeting the Barcelona targets