Blog: Gender equality in the EU and Ukraine — where do we stand?
December 8, 2022

Blog: Gender equality in the EU and Ukraine — where do we stand?

On 23 June 2022, Ukraine was granted EU candidate status. This event marked the beginning of a new chapter in EU-Ukraine relations. At the same time, it put new expectations on Ukraine in terms of adjusting its legal framework and policies in line with EU requirements. One of the key priorities for the EU is the promotion and protection of democracy and human rights, which are the core of the EU’s external action.

Among others, the EU is often considered as a project with an important antidiscrimination goal, for which the principle of equality is a fundamental value. As a result, the EU integrates, among others, gender equality into its enlargement process and neighbourhood policy, and promotes and financially supports gender equality and women’s empowerment across the globe. In this article, we will analyse and compare the progress in achieving a gender-equal society in the EU and Ukraine.

A general view of the European Parliament during a plenary session in Brussels on February 3, where the deputies were debating the political situation in Austria © Reuters

To provide a comprehensive map of gender inequalities in the EU and EU member states, the European Institute for Gender Equality has been publishing a Gender Equality Index since 2013. It gives the EU and the EU member states a score from 1 to 100, with 100 meaning a country has reached full equality between women and men. The last edition was published in 2022 and focused on the impact of the pandemic on women and men. Unfortunately, this index does not cover Ukraine, which is still not a member of the EU. Thus, the analysis and comparison will be made based on the results of the Global Gender Gap Report 2022, developed by the World Economic Forum.

The Global Gender Gap Report is an index designed to measure gender equality in four main areas of inequality between men and women: economic participation and opportunity (salaries, participation levels, and access to high-skilled employment), educational attainment (access to basic and higher level education), health and survival (life expectancy and sex ratio), and political empowerment (representation in decision-making structures). The analysis presented in the report is based on a methodology integrating the statistics from international organisations and a survey of executives. It is the longest-standing index that tracks progress towards closing these gaps over time since its inception in 2006, and measures scores on a 0 to 100 scale (scores can be interpreted as the distance covered towards parity). In 2022, the Global Gender Gap Index benchmarked 146 countries.

According to the report’s findings, Ukraine’s 2022 ranking has fallen compared to previous years. Currently, it is 81st out of 146 countries. In 2021, the country’s ranking was 74th out of 156 and, in 2020, it was 59th out of 153. Let’s have a closer look at the different areas analysed when preparing the report:

–     in terms of economic participation and opportunity, Ukraine is 62nd out of 146 countries;

–     with regard to educational attainment, it ranks 53;

–     the health and survival dimension is the most promising for Ukraine, as it is 37th on the list out of 146;

–     but when considering political empowerment, Ukraine is towards the bottom of the list: 100th out of 146.

Unfortunately, the Global Gender Gap Report does not provide an average ranking for the EU in general, contrary to the EU’s Gender Equality Index, which means we need to compare Ukraine to the rankings of individual EU member states in order to identify where Ukraine might stand.

MPs consider the Budget amendments during the session in Kyiv, Ukraine, on November 3, 2022 © Reuters

The EU’s 27 member states have the following rankings, according to the Global Gender Gap Index 2022 (countries are presented in descending order):

CountryGeneral rankingEconomic participation and opportunityEducational attainmentHealth andsurvival dimensionPolitical empowerment
Czech Republic76/14695/1461/14641/14667/146
Croatianot covered by the index in 2022

As things stand, compared to the EU member states, Ukraine would be towards the bottom of the list, followed only by Malta, Hungary, Romania, Cyprus, and Greece. The common trends for these countries are:

–    the low level of women’s political empowerment and lack of access for women to decision-making positions and processes;

–    underrepresentation of women in the productive sphere of societal life, low level of economic participation, and lack of development opportunities for them in this dimension.

At the same time, we observe some interesting figures in terms of the health and survivor dimension with regard to the frontrunners. For instance, Sweden, Ireland, Spain, Netherlands Denmark, Luxembourg, and Italy are ranked below 100 out of 146 states. This observation opens space for further research and analysis in the future.

At the current rate of progress, it will take 132 years for countries to reach full parity, which is four years faster compared to the 2021 estimate. However, Saadia Zahidi, a Managing Director at the World Economic Forum, claims that “the multi-layered and compounding crises including the rising cost of living, the ongoing pandemic, the climate emergency, and large-scale conflict and displacement have impacted hugely the progress towards gender parity. Not only are millions of women and girls losing out on access and opportunity at present, this halt in progress towards parity is a catastrophe for the future of our economies, societies, and communities.”

Hence, if the EU wants to keep the status of a human rights and gender equality protector and promoter globally, it has to pay particular attention to creating and supporting effective systems and mechanisms of women’s empowerment, particularly in economic and political areas. Similarly, if Ukraine genuinely wants to become a member of the EU, it has to strengthen its gender equality policies and politics to prevent further deterioration of the situation taking into account the ongoing war and the challenges that it creates for women’s rights and freedoms.

Author: Liliia Antoniuk, Young European Ambassadors in Ukraine National Coordinator.

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