VILNIUS, LITHUANIA – Over the past twelve months, countries within the European Union have done very little in furthering initiatives tied to improving the gender equality index, revealed a recent report. It went on to say that pandemic has had adversely affected gender equality, mental and sexual health markers across Europe.

The annual report compiled by the European Institute of Gender Equality (EIGE) is being released since 2013. In its sixth edition, the report factored in indicators like work, power, money, health, knowledge and time. This time, it also addressed the issue of a spike in cases of gender-based violence and the impact of the pandemic on people from the disadvantaged sections. 

The conclusion drawn in this year’s report was that the EU scored 68 out of 100 points on the Gender Equality Index, which is an improvement of a mere 0.6 points from last year. Like last time, Sweden and Denmark topped the index with the Netherlands coming in a close third, followed by Finland and France. Luxembourg, Lithuania and Netherlands registered the biggest improvement in the last twelve months. Sweden scored the highest among all countries at 83.9 points, while Greece scored the lowest at 52.6 points. 

“Europe has made fragile gains in gender equality but big losses are emerging as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The economic fallout is lasting longer for women, while life expectancy for men has dropped. Our Index findings can help Europe’s leaders tackle the different effects of the pandemic on women and men and alleviate the unequal short and long-term impact,” said EIGE’s Director Carlien Scheele about the importance of the report. 

Considering the current state of the world, this year’s report focussed on finding out the link between health and gender equality. It found that while the number of women employed in the healthcare industry was huge, they were more prone not only to fall prey to coronavirus but also the mental burnout of being overworked during the pandemic. 

Other health related findings of the report were:

  • With more prevalence of heart diseases, blood pressure and diabetes, men were more likely to be hospitalised on contracting the virus
  • Countries with higher cases of the virus experienced a drop in birth rates 
  • Due to falling mental health, economic uncertainty and several additional unpaid domestic and caregiving responsibilities on women made many couples either delaying or deciding against having children 
  • Access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services became more difficult
  • On account of schools being closed and the restricted movements due to lockdowns, it became more difficult for girls and women to get access to menstrual hygiene information and products

The report concluded that the governments must integrate concerns regarding gender equality while undertaking policymaking decisions. “Equal access to good quality health services, including sexual and reproductive health and rights, allows women and men, in all their diversity, to live a full and active life in society,” said  Helena Dalli, EU Commissioner for Equality.