Gender issues in Europe’s latest unemployment rates

Credit: JIP

The headquarters of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany

Sean Gibson visualises the latest unemployment rates coming out of Europe, illustrating the gender bias for each nation’s figures and what this could mean going forward for a still-fragile European economy.

With tentative talk of economic recovery in certain corners of Europe, now is a natural break-point to consider the unemployment rates throughout the continent – specifically, how the figures line up along gender lines.  In an uncertain environment these national biases could become more pronounced if we hit any hiccups.

The worst of the financial crisis may well be behind us, as we are told, but there are several threats to a stable recovery that could cause serious pain for many millions of EU residents.

Quantitative easing – the means by which the US Federal Reserve has been promoting investment and growth through asset purchases – is being scaled back.  Simultaneously, China is curtailing its spending as it looks to reform its financial systems, and make them more dependent on world markets than the Chinese state.  That means the world’s two biggest spenders are ducking out at the same time. Who’s going to keep Europe’s recovery cycle going if nobody’s buying anything it’s got?

All the while, the European Central Bank has been struggling to get consensus throughout Europe on the legality of its own breed of quantitative easing.  The option of debt mutualisation – where member countries would pool the debts they have built up through the crisis years – has been punted well off the table.

Heat map – gender bias

With this significant gloom hanging over the ongoing ‘recovery’, here are the differences in employment rates and gender biases in terms of percentage points – see the table below for full statistics.

The more solid colour blocks show the more pronounced differences between men and women, with red shades showing lesser unemployment for women and blue shades showing lesser unemployment for men.

In line with the map up top, the table below shows the three countries that most favour men in blue, while the three countries where women have the biggest advantage are to be found in red (data from Eurostat – no Switzerland, sorry).

Unemployment rates Male (%) Female (%)
Belgium 8.8 8.2
Bulgaria 13.4 12.7
Czech Republic 5.7 8.2
Denmark 6.8 7.3
Germany 5.2 4.8
Estonia 9.8* 8.9*
Ireland 13.3 10.3
Greece 24.9* 32.2*
Spain 25 26.8
France 10.9 10.8
Croatia 20.5 16.6
Italy 12.2 13.8
Cyprus 17.4 16.1
Latvia 11.9** 11.1**
Lithuania 12.5 10.2
Luxembourg 5.4 7
Hungary 8.5** 9.2**
Malta 7.1 6.7
Netherlands 7.4 6.8
Austria 4.8 5.1
Poland 9.2 10.7
Portugal 15 15.7
Romania 7.8 6.5
Slovenia 8.8 11.8
Slovakia 13.8 13.4
Finland 8.8 7.7
Sweden 8.4 7.9
United Kingdom 7.6* 6.8*
Iceland 5.4 5.2
Norway 3.8** 3.5**
Figures for Jan 2014    
* denotes Nov 2013 figures    
** denotes Dec 2013 figures

Nineteen out of those 30 countries have unemployment rates more favourable to women – can we take a moment to congratulate ourselves on advancing gender equality?

Alas, no.  If this were some kind of sport scored by percentage points, even with their near two-thirds nation advantage (19/30) the females would still lose out to the males in a 21.5-19.6 defeat.  The figures demonstrate that where women have the advantage it is smaller, whereas the countries in which the men enjoy a smaller unemployment rate, they do so by a significant margin.  Just look  at that whopping 7.3 percentage-points difference in Greece one more time.

Even if women were faring better in terms of unemployment rates throughout Europe, these figures say nothing for the state of the inequality in wages that still prevails.  Nor do we have any knowledge from this data of the working conditions or terms of employment (sick pay, maternity leave, etc.).

This article cannot do justice to the myriad cultural and social factors at play in each country’s unique situation.  There are several factors to be explored much further but this data should arm us to go forward and find those important narratives.

– – –

What is the gender bias like in your country’s employment figures?  Are you surprised by this data?  What do you think can be done to tackle real imbalances in the gender balance of the unemployment rate?  Let us know your thoughts in the Comments section below.

All data from Eurostat.

Photo credit: JIP

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