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Equality between the sexes: slow but sure progress throughout the EU

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Equality between the sexes: slow but sure progress throughout the EUGaps in gender equality in Europe are shrinking, but the rate of progress is slow, according to an annual EU report published this week..

The report found persistent inequalities between the sexes in employment, pay and representation, while violence against women remains a big problem:

On average, women still earn 16.4% less than men. Women account for just 27% of MPs across Europe. 1 in 3 European women has experienced physical or sexual violence after the age of 15.

EU efforts to reduce inequalities have brought major improvements:

Heavy investment in childcare facilities has helped raise the female employment rate to 63%, up from 58% in 2002.

Since the option of affirmative action was announced in 2010, the proportion of women on boards has jumped from 11% to 17.8%.

Laws and practical action to tackle gender-based violence were introduced in 2013, with €15.1m of funding for campaigns.

However, the report estimates that, at the current rate of change, it will take 70 years to make equal pay a reality, and 20 years for women to achieve 40% representation in national parliaments.

EU efforts to improve gender equality between 2010 and 2015 focus on equal economic independence, equal pay and ending gender-based violence.

Work in this direction continues. In March, the EU recommended improving pay transparency to help tackle the pay gap, and a proposal on affirmative action to achieve parity in boardrooms is making progress.

A second report, also published, shows that the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights – which guarantees the rights of EU citizens, including equality and non-discrimination – is beginning to play a more prominent role in law and policymaking. Courts are increasingly referring to it, and further legislation to uphold rights was proposed in 2013.

The report reveals that European citizens have a strong interest in fundamental rights issues. Almost half the queries fielded by EU information centres last year concerned free movement and residence, while 5% were about anti-discrimination rules.

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