With an average overall gender gap of 24.2%, Western Europe remains the highest-performing region in the Index in 2018. It is home to four of the top five countries in the Index—Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland—highlighting the continued leadership of the Nordic countries with regard to gender parity outcomes. However, Western Europe is also one of the regions with wide observed performance variation. At the bottom ranks of the region, three countries have a remaining gender gap of more than 30%: Greece, Malta and Cyprus. The difference in gender gap size between the highest-ranked and lowest-ranked countries in the region is about 3.4% for Educational Attainment and just over 1% for Health and Survival, with seven of the 20 countries fully closing their gender gaps on education indicators. However, once again this year, no country in the region has managed to fully close its Health and Survival gender gap.
As in other regions, gender parity levels in countries across Western Europe are particularly uneven with regard to the Economic Participation and Opportunity and Political Empowerment subindexes; there are, respectively, 20% and over 50% differences in gender gap size between the region’s best and worst performers. Eleven of the region’s 20 countries have achieved a gender parity level of at least 70% on Economic Participation and Opportunity, including two—Sweden and Norway—that have crossed the 80% mark. On Political Empowerment, four countries have reached a gender parity level of more than 50%, and eight countries have closed between 30% and 50% of their gender gaps (although eight countries have yet to close at least 30% of their gender gaps on this subindex). Nine of the global Index top 20 performers on this subindex are from this region.
In terms of year-on-year progress, out of the 20 countries from the region covered by the Index this year, 14 have increased their overall scores compared to last year, while six have recorded lower scores.
Iceland (1), Norway (2), Sweden (3) and Finland (4) defend their top-ranked positions in the Index on the back of their sustained progress on the Political Empowerment subindex and continued strong performance on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex. However, the Index’s estimated earned income scale reveals that in the Nordic countries, as elsewhere, additional efforts will continue to be needed to achieve full wage equality and fully close the gender gap in income. Ireland (9) likewise maintains its global top 10 position, with a marked improvement in closing the gender gap in estimated earned income.
France (12) records some improvements this year—particularly with regard to Political Empowerment, due to increased gender parity in the composition of the country’s parliamentarians and a more narrow gender gap in women’s estimated earned income. However, France remains in the bottom half of the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex ranking for the region. Its score is practically tied with next-placed Denmark (13), which also sees modest improvements this year, driven by an improvement in closing the gender gap on estimated earned income. Both countries have closed about 78% of their overall gender gap.
By contrast, Germany (14) experiences some reversal of recent progress, moving down two spots due to a widening gender gap in women in parliament. In addition, its gender gap on Educational Attainment remains open; Germany ranks last in the Western Europe region on this subindex. The United Kingdom (15) this year records a very similar overall level of gender parity to Germany’s, driven by improvements on the Political Empowerment subindex.
Switzerland’s (20) performance remains stable compared to 2017, with some progress on the Political Empowerment subindex that is counterbalanced by some widening of the gender gap on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex.
The Netherlands (27), Spain (29), Belgium (32) and Portugal (37) rank in the bottom half of the Western Europe region. Spain and Portugal both record very similar overall gender parity outcomes to last year: Spain improves slightly on the Economic Opportunity and Participation subindex, and Portugal ranks higher on healthy life expectancy. Meanwhile, Belgium and the Netherlands move in opposite directions. On the one hand, the Netherlands makes progress on closing its gender gap on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex—the estimated earned income gap in particular—while Belgium experiences a widening gender gap in wage equality and healthy life expectancy.
Austria (53) and Luxembourg (61) both make some progress on closing their overall gender gap. Austria sees an increased share of women in parliament and Luxembourg achieves greater parity on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex.
Italy (70) improves its score and once more manages to close more than 70% of its overall gender gaps. This is attributable to a greater share of women parliamentarians, improvements on wage equality for similar work, and a further closing of the country’s gender gap in estimated earned income. Greece (78), similarly, manages to increase its share of female legislators, senior officials and managers. The Western Europe regional table is completed by Malta (91) and Cyprus (92), the latter of which this year sees a widening gender gap among the number legislators, senior officials and managers, whereas the former reduces its gender gap in labour force participation.