Awareness of gender inequalities is on the rise in Europe, and much has been done to promote gender equal societies. However, there is still much to be done. What should policymakers focus on? I will share some conclusions derived from four projects that were part of the Dynamics of Inequality Across the Life-course: structures and processes (DIAL) research programme, where I served as the scientific coordinator. These conclusions indicate some key trends and patterns that should be considered by policymakers when planning initiatives on gender equality.
- Europe is far from achieving gender equality within the labour market and within families. There is some evidence of gender pay gaps narrowing, but inequalities are still substantial across countries and sectors. Evidence from the DIAL programme indicates, for example, that the stagnating gender wage gap tends to be related to part-time work that mothers undertake, which leaves them at a disadvantage regarding income growth over time. Breaking gender roles has been extremely challenging within families: During the lockdown in spring 2020, men took up a greater share of the housework than they had done previously. Yet after lockdown, couples quickly returned to their earlier patterns of gender division, particularly in families with children under five.
- Gender discrimination persists. The policy atmosphere for sexual and gender identity minorities has changed tremendously in the last years, positively impacting the lives of individuals identifying as LGBTQI+. Nevertheless, discrimination is still persistent within the workplace, health system and the society at large, with trans individuals having a greater risk than their cisgender counterparts. In addition, research indicates that the implementation of policies addressing LGBTQI+ inequalities at national and local levels is uneven and should be better monitored and mainstreamed.
- Extending working lives and promoting active ageing have become important goals in the policy agendas of national governments as well as the EU. It is important that initiatives consider the gendered impacts of extended working life policies, in particular, individuals’ health and the requirements of workers in physically demanding or stressful work. They must also recognise the care responsibilities that are often greater for women than men. Flexible work options are of key importance for older workers and should be developed further.
- In addition, women face a greater risk of poverty throughout their working lives and into retirement because of breaks in paid employment and reduced work hours, which have led to systematic disadvantage. Investments in skills and training for older women should be further promoted to help close gender pay differentials.