Excerpted from introduction
The European Commission’s Gender Equality Strategy 2020-20251 sets the current framework for EU action to promote one of its fundamental values, equality between women and men. The year 2021 was the second year of its implementation. It was also the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, which clearly exposed the persistence of some deep-rooted inequalities in society and in the economy, while simultaneously recalling society’s reliance on women and their work, and its continued undervaluation.
This report takes stock of the main initiatives to promote equality between women and men in the past twelve months in the key areas of the Strategy:
- being free from violence and stereotypes;
- thriving in a gender-equal economy;
- leading equally throughout society;
- gender mainstreaming and funding; and
- promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment across the world.
The report focuses on key actions and achievements on gender equality by EU institutions and Member States. It showcases some inspiring practices and innovative projects and presents key trends and the newest available data.
In 2021, the gendered impact of the COVID-19 crisis continued to manifest itself. The disproportionate impact on women threatens to reverse decades of progress on gender equality. This concerns, in particular, the greater care burden brought by lockdowns, the lost income and heightened precariousness, and the steep increase in domestic violence2 .
Despite these setbacks, the last year brought about important European legislative developments that can become game changers for gender equality. This concerns, in particular, women’s pay. Barely nine months after its presentation in March 2021, the European Commission’s proposed directive on pay transparency secured a general agreement in the Council, paving the way for negotiations with the European Parliament and final adoption. In a similar vein, the proposal on minimum wage has already reached a decisive stage of negotiations with the co-legislators. The year 2021 was also a busy period for taking forward initiatives to help combat violence against women. The Council reached a general approach on the proposal for a Digital Services Act, which would help to remove illegal content and protect women users online. Furthermore, the Commission plans to adopt, on 8 March 2022, a directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence. With this legislation, the EU will improve the prevention of violence, strengthen the protection and support of victims and facilitate their access to justice. Finally, the Commission proposed that the Council adopt a decision to include hate speech and hate crime in the list of EU crimes. Once agreed by the Council, this would allow the Commission to propose legislation criminalising all forms of hate speech and hate crime, both online and offline and on all prohibited grounds of discrimination, including sex or gender. 1 Available at https://eur-lex.euro