Malta is lagging the EU average in gender equality, but together with Italy and Luxembourg, it has been flagged as one of the countries with the largest improvement over a decade.

According to the annual index by the EU's centre on gender equality, Europe scored an overall average of 67.9 out of 100. 

Sweden, Denmark and France kept their top spots in the Institute for Gender Equality’s latest index, while Greece, Hungary and Romania fared the worst.

The award for most improved goes to Italy, Luxembourg and Malta, with each gaining around 10 points since 2010. 

The gender equality index, which measures the progress of gender equality over time, gives a score from 1 to 100 to each member state, 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 2020 Gender Equality Index are mostly based on data from 2018.

Malta scored 63.4, up by nearly one point from last year. 

One of the domains it scored high on was that of work, where it registered 75.4 points, compared to the EU’s 72.2. EIGE noted that closing the gender gap at work made a relatively high contribution to gender equality progress in Malta between 2017 and 2018.

However, while countries such as Sweden, Lithuania, Latvia, Finland and Portugal had already surpassed the EU2020 employment target in 2018, Malta was among the countries with the highest gender employment gaps that remained below the 2020 target.

When it comes to the domain of power Malta scored only 32.8, compared to the EU’s 53.5.

Currently, there are two women in cabinet, nine women in parliament and two female MEPs.

EIGE noted that the presence of women in EU national parliaments has increased from 24 per cent in 2010 to 32 per cent in 2020.

Parliaments in Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Spain, Portugal and Austria have reached gender balance and are made up of at least 40 per cent of each gender.

The parliaments of Croatia, Malta and Hungary have less than 20 per cent female members.

Malta, Lithuania and Cyprus stood out because in 2020 each had only one woman among their ministers, with men holding over 90 per cent of ministerial positions.

Malta scores high on health

On the other hand, Malta is among the top scorers for gender equality when it comes to health issues. It scored 92 out of 100, placing third in the index, while the EU average stood at 88 points.

In Malta women are meanwhile more likely than men to use the internet to search for a job, while together with Finland and Croatia, the island also has the highest shares of young women with above basic digital skills.

Can we wait 60 more years?

The index shows that the EU is improving by just half a point each year. If it continues at the current pace, the EU is at least 60 years away from reaching complete gender equality.

Referring to the EU’s general progress, EIGE’s director Carlien Scheele said on Thursday that while there have been small, steady gains year on year, this time there was reason for concern. 

“The coronavirus pandemic poses a serious threat to gender equality progress, which we cannot afford,” she said. “More than ever, policymakers will need to use the results of our index to design inclusive solutions that promote gender equality in our society, both during and after the pandemic.”

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