With an average gender gap of 25%, Western Europe remains the highest performing region in the Index in 2017. However, it is also one of the regions with the widest performance variation, seeing progress stall or even reverse across a number of countries this year. Western Europe is home to four of the top five countries in the Index—Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden—highlighting the continued progress of the Nordic countries in closing their overall gender gaps. At the bottom ranks of the region, four countries have a remaining gender gap of more than 30%: Greece, Italy, Cyprus and Malta. No country in the region has managed to fully close both its Educational Attainment and its Health and Survival gender gaps this year.
Out of the 20 countries in the region covered by the Index this year, nine have improved their overall score over last year, while 11 have seen it decrease.
Iceland (1), Norway (2), Finland (3) and Sweden (5) defend their top five positions in the Index on the back of their world-leading positions on the Political Empowerment subindex and continued strong performance on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex. However, the Index’s estimated earned income scale, revised last year, reveals that in the Nordic countries, as elsewhere, additional efforts will continue to be required to fully close the gender gap in income. Ireland (8) likewise maintains its global top 10 position, despite some reversal of progress in political representation. France (11) records notable improvements this year—particularly with regard to Political Empowerment and increased gender parity in the composition of the nation’s parliamentarians—and rises six spots, placing the country just outside the overall Index top 10. It also narrows its gender gap in the share of female legislators, senior officials and managers, as well as in women’s estimated earned income and—at just under 78% of its overall gender gap closed—achieves its highest-ever score measured by the Index. France’s score is practically tied with next-placed Germany (12), which sees a noteworthy improvement in wage equality for similar work and some progress towards re-closing its gender gap in tertiary education enrolment. However, its gender gap in Educational Attainment remains open and the country ranks last in the Western Europe region in this category.
Denmark (14) and the United Kingdom (15) both climb several ranks and complete this year’s representation of the region in the global Index top 20, with notable progress on Political Empowerment and women in ministerial positions, in particular. Switzerland (21) sees some reversal of its previous progress and moves down several ranks. Although the immediate reason for this is a widening gender gap on the Political Empowerment subindex—due to a smaller share of women in ministerial positions as well as a falling share of women in professional and technical roles—as a longer-term trend, the country’s progress has recently not fully kept pace with that of the region’s other top performers on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex. More positively, Switzerland does record a modest positive increase on the wage equality for similar work indicator.
Spain (24), Belgium (31), The Netherlands (32) and Portugal (33) rank in the middle of the Western Europe region. The two countries on the Iberian peninsula record progress on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex despite regressing slightly on the gender gap in healthy life expectancy, while the two Benelux countries move down several spots due to widening gender gaps in Political Empowerment and wage equality for similar work. Austria (57) and Luxembourg (59) experience a widening gender gap in women’s estimated earned income, women’s share of professional and technical roles and women’s representation in ministerial roles this year. Greece (78) moves up several spots due to improvements in wage equality for similar work and women’s share of estimated earned income, while Italy (82) sees a drop in wage equality for similar work and women in ministerial roles, and widens its gender gap to more than 30% for the first time since 2014. The Western Europe regional table is completed by Cyprus (92) and Malta (93), the latter of which this year sees solid improvements across the Educational Attainment subindex and fully closes this gender gap.