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Finland ranks fifth in EU Gender Equality Index

Ministry of Social Affairs and Health
Publication date 28.10.2021 12.10
Press release 316/2021

Finland has ranked fifth in the Index measuring gender equality in the European Union. The Index measures the state of gender equality in a number of different domains, such as work, health and power.

The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) released its sixth Index measuring gender equality on 28 October 2021. The Index measures gender equality in six core domains: work, money, knowledge, time, power and health. The Index report also includes a thematic focus. This year, the thematic focus is on health, particularly on the health effects of COVID-19, mental health and sexual and reproductive health. 

Most of the data presented in the 2021 Index is from 2019. As a rule, the average figures for the domain of power are from 2018–2020.

Highest overall increase in the domain of power and in economic decision-making 

The overall Gender Equality Index score for the EU is now 68 points out of 100, with 100 standing for full equality. This is an improvement of 0.6 points since the previous edition of the Index and of 4.9 points since 2010. The report draws attention to this slow progress on gender equality. It is estimated that it will take nearly three generations to achieve gender equality at the current pace. The COVID-19 pandemic and its negative effects on gender equality are threatening to slow down the pace of progress.

The highest overall scores for the EU are in the domain of health (87.8 points) and the lowest in the domains of power (55.0 points) and knowledge (62.7 points). In the latter two, economic decision-making and segregation in education had the lowest scores, 48.8 and 54.1 respectively. Gender segregation is a major problem in the EU, both in the labour market and education. The score for education has remained virtually unchanged in recent years, especially in terms of segregation.

The overall scores increased the most in the domain of power, by 1.9 points from the previous edition of the Index and by over 13 points from 2010. This improvement in the domain of power accounts for nearly two thirds of the overall increase in the Index since 2010. Economic decision-making in particular has showed major improvement.

Finland above the EU average

Finland’s overall score was 75.3, being over 7 points above the EU average. The increase is 0.6 points from last year. The Index score has risen by 2.2 points since 2010. According to the EIGE classification, Finland is one of the countries whose national score is above the EU average but whose points have increased at a slower pace than the EU average. 
The domain of power also shows the highest increase in Finland, with a score of 74.3 points. This is an improvement of 2.4 points since the previous Index edition. Gender equality in both economic and political decision-making has advanced. In the short term, the greatest increase has been in political decision-making (6.5 points), and in the long term, in economic decision-making (8.3 points). The increase is due to the fact, for example, that women’s representation in the 2019 parliamentary elections and the Government increased.

In other respects, only minimal changes have occurred in Finland. Finland’s highest score, 89.5 points, was in the domain of health. 

Minor changes in top-performing countries — Netherlands climbed to third position

The three top-performing countries are Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. France ranks fourth and Finland fifth. The Netherlands climbed to the third position, dropping France and Finland by one position. Nine countries scored more than 70 points on the Index. Of them, Sweden was the only country to score more than 80 points. 

In recent years, the Index scores for France and the Netherlands have increased particularly in decision-making, in France by nearly 30 points since 2010. The main reason for this is the quotas used in economic and political decision-making in France. In the Netherlands, the Index score increased from last year particularly in economic decision-making.  

Clear gender differences in health status and health behaviour

This year, the thematic focus is on health. Overall, women tend to report worse health than men, including mental health in all age groups. In the 27 Member States of the EU, 66 per cent of women and 71 per cent of men perceive their health to be good or very good. Women also report lower levels of mental wellbeing regardless of family composition, age, income, country of birth and disability.

There are persistent gender gaps in health-promoting behaviour, such as healthy eating and physical activity. For example, men are more likely to smoke and drink excessively but they reach the weekly exercise target more often than women. Such behavioural models are already visible in adolescence, and the gap between men and women widens with age. 

COVID-19 pandemic has weakened access to healthcare services 

Many population groups, such as single parents, older people, immigrants and people with disabilities, and in these groups particularly women, are at a higher risk of having poor access to healthcare services. Barriers to accessing healthcare may include costs and experiences of discrimination. High costs of services create a barrier to access particularly for people aged 65 or older.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated barriers to access to healthcare services in the EU either as a result of deferment and deprioritisation of certain medical procedures or because of fear of infection. About one fifth of people had missed a medical examination or treatment during the pandemic. 

Men at a higher risk of developing a severe COVID-19 disease — women more likely to be exposed to COVID-19

Men are at a higher risk of developing a severe COVID-19 disease and have a higher risk of death from COVID-19. Women, on the other hand, become exposed to COVID-19 more often, and infections among working-age women far outnumber those among working-age men. Higher rates of infection among women have been linked to their presence in the caring professions, especially in healthcare.

Evidence is mounting on the profound mental health toll of the pandemic particularly on people working in the care sector.


Eeva Raevaara, Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 2951 63205, [email protected]

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