Malta’s gender inequalities are reducing but it still lags behind the EU average, with gaps between men and women in full-time work the highest in Europe.

The country ranked 13th across the EU in the 2021 edition of the annual index published by the EU's centre on gender equality (EIGE) on Thursday, with an overall average of 65 out of 100, three points below the average score.

Gender equality levels vary considerably among states: 10 countries are above the EU average, with Sweden and Denmark maintaining their top two spots. Ten states scored lower than 60, with Greece, Hungary and Romania struggling the most.

Malta has been gradually rising up the ranks over the past decade and is one of the three countries to have registered the most progress since 2010, along with Luxembourg and Italy.

Over a decade, Malta’s score has increased by 10.6 points, raising its ranking by five places. 

Malta’s score this year is 1.6 points higher than that registered last year, improving the country’s ranking by one place.

What does the index measure?

The index measures the progress of gender equality over time, in different aspects of life. It gives each member state a score from 1 to 100, based on the gaps between women and men and levels of achievement in work, money, knowledge, power and health among others.

The results of the 2021 Gender Equality Index are mostly based on data from 2019.

Big gaps in employment

The gender gap in employment is particularly large in Malta, the EIGE report found, with no other country having as large a discrepancy in the EU.

While Malta has managed to narrow the full-time equivalent employment rate to 22 percentage points (down from 33 percentage points in 2010), that remains well off the average 16 percentage point gap registered across the EU.

The full-time equivalent employment rate is an employee's scheduled hours divided by the employer's hours for a full-time workweek.

In Malta, the gaps are wider between women and men with low levels of education.

Overall, the report flagged continued “rapid gains” in the domain of work in Malta, which recorded a 1.4 point increase in 2019 - the largest of any EU country.

“Nevertheless, the annual change was lower than in 2018, when there was a gain of 2.1 points, indicating that Malta’s progress is flattening.”

19th in the domain of power

Gender inequalities are most pronounced in the domain of power, where Malta scored only 37.5 points, ranking 19th, faring especially low when it comes to economic decision-making.

The share of women on the boards of the largest publicly listed companies increased from two per cent in 2010 to only 10 per cent in 2021.

In its country analysis report, EIGE said there are no mandatory national gender quotas for listed companies in Malta. And although there was an improvement in the share of women on the board of the central bank, it remains low (increasing from 9 per cent in 2010 to 25 per cent in 2020).

Progress stalled in political decision-making

Progress meanwhile stalled when it comes to political decision-making: since 2010 Malta has been stuck in 25th place, because progress has been faster in other member states.

The share of women among senior and junior ministers has not changed since 2010 and remains very low, at 15 per cent.

Malta registers similarly low shares when it comes to women MPs (13 per cent, up from 9 per cent in 2010) and women in local councils (increasing from 22 per cent to 26 per cent in 2020). 

Malta's parliament and government continue to be male-dominated arenas. Photo: Jonathan BorgMalta's parliament and government continue to be male-dominated arenas. Photo: Jonathan Borg

Gender segregation in education 

Malta’s score also stalled in the domain of knowledge, dropping from eighth to ninth place. EIGE believes this step backwards was driven by an increase in gender segregation in education, in which Malta’s score decreased by 4.1 points. 

In 2018, around 50 per cent of all female university students were enrolled in “the most feminised fields”, such as education, health, welfare, humanities and arts.

That figure means Malta’s gender gap in enrolment is one of the highest ones in the EU, standing at 23 percentage points. 

Since 2010, the country also witnessed a sharp widening in the gap by 7 percentage points.

Many women continue to enrol in 'feminised' subjects at University, the report found. Photo: Jonathan BorgMany women continue to enrol in 'feminised' subjects at University, the report found. Photo: Jonathan Borg

Best performance

Malta scored high in health (92.3 points), ranking second among all EU states, with the island, earning nearly full marks - 99.8 points - when it comes to access to health services.

According to the same report, Malta also has one of the highest rates of adolescent births per 1,000 people.

There were 12 births to girls aged 15 to19 for every 1,000 girls in 2019.

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