No results...

Evidence to Action: Gender equality and gender mainstreaming in the COVID-19 recovery

13 Oct 2023

Evidence to Action: Gender equality and gender mainstreaming in the COVID-19 recovery

A new report published by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) provides extensive evidence of the impact of the recovery response to the COVID-19 pandemic in both the short and the long term. PPMI prepared this report in the context of a research project for EIGE

The report presents a gender assessment of the EU recovery response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

It focuses on assessing the effects of gender gaps in employment and incomes of selected short-term national policy measures (e.g. taxes and benefits) temporarily introduced by the Member States to contain the adverse economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 crisis.

It examines the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF) from a gender perspective and identifies opportunities and challenges for gender equality and gender mainstreaming. The RRF is an EU instrument to support reforms and investments in the Member States with the purpose of mitigating the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It assesses the approach to gender equality and gender mainstreaming in the national Recovery and Resilience Plans (RRPs) RRF funds are disbursed on satisfactory fulfillment of milestones and targets included in the national RRPs of each Member State.

We have summarised below the main findings and conclusions from the study.

The COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted the labour market situation of both women and men, but for women, the crisis aggravated pre-existing disadvantages

In 2020, employment rates fell significantly among both women and men, but women were more negatively affected by declines in hours of work and increase in absences from work. Both employed and unemployed women were more likely than men to become economically inactive. Women who were already economically inactive were more likely to remain inactive than men.

Governments’ discretionary policies to counteract the impacts of the pandemic on disposable incomes had a positive effect on both women and men in almost all Member States

Without new policy interventions, the COVID-19 labour market shock of 2020 would have resulted in an increase in poverty among women and men of working age in the majority of EU Member States. The anti-crisis tax–benefit measures introduced by governments in 2020 were temporary in nature. Our research found that their positive impacts on individual disposable incomes, poverty and gender income inequality are also likely to be temporary.

The gender equality provisions of the Recovery and Resilience Facility fall short in comparison with the legal and policy commitments to gender equality made by the EU and the Member State

Tackling the adverse impacts of the crisis on women is a general objective of the RRF, and as such, requires Member States to explain how their RRPs contribute to ‘gen­der equality and equal opportunities for all and the mainstreaming of those objectives’. However, this requirement does not establish a duty for Member States to conduct gender mainstreaming and include gender-targeted measures. In this context, the RRF regulation falls short in presenting gender equality as a core value and a fundamental principle of the EU and the EU’s obligation to promote equality between women and men in all of its activities, as enshrined in the EU treaties.

Nonetheless, other provisions could support the integration of gender equality and gender mainstreaming into the RRF and the RRPs

This is achieved thanks to the integration with the European Semester through the country-specific recommendations (CSRs) addressed to Mem­ber States that are relevant to gender equality (e.g. recommendations focused on the gender pay gap or care infrastructures). In addition, the RRF monitoring is carried out through the Recovery and Resilience Scoreboard, which comprises four gender-disaggregated com­mon indicators, and uses a ‘flagging method’ to record social measures with a focus on gender equality.

Opportunities to adopt a gender perspective in the RRF and the RRPs

The RRF’s approach to gender equality is minor compared with its focus on the green and digital transitions, and, to some extent, compared with the gender-related requirements of other EU funds

Recovery and Resilience Facility approach to climate and digital priorities and gender equality

Member States put forward a few gender-targeted measures in the RRPs, but a cross-cutting approach to gender equality is largely absent

Rather than adopting a gender perspective from the outset, most Member States retrospectively identified a few measures likely to contribute to gender equality and listed them in their standalone explanation. In the absence of formal requirements, and despite the guidance provided, measures have often not been designed in a gender-sensitive manner, including those under the digital and green pillars of the RRF. Overall, our research found that ministries of finance shaped the selection of measures on the basis of pre-existing economic priorities, and the focus on large system-level reforms of the economy and the development of infrastructure made a gender perspective appear irrelevant.

Among the gender-targeted measures, Member States prioritised different reforms and investments linked to the promotion of gender equality
The lack of a sufficient tracking methodology in the RRF, and the fact that most Member States have not used gender budgeting tools, will prevent the systematic assessment and monitoring of budget allocated to gender equality in the RRPs

The ‘flagging method’ adopted by the Commission will allow only qualita­tive reporting on social measures with a focus on gender equality. With several limitations, the study team conducted an ex-ante assessment of available budgetary information from a gender perspective. This assessment showed that the overall share of the RRPs’ budgets that is intended to be allocated to measures having a focus on gender equality con­stitutes only a minor fraction of the total budget (around 2 %). Considering that the Member States are still implementing their plans and that meas­ures not currently flagged may also have an impact on gender equality, it is too early to draw final conclusions on the real impact and expendi­ture on gender equality.

Budget allocation to gender equality in the RRPs (%)

The RRPs can be modified during the course of their implementation, particularly in light of the impact on the EU of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (Report (EU) COM (2022) 383 final). However, it is unclear to what extent the knowledge and data on gender equality gathered in the monitoring of the RRF will be used to revise the RRPs, particularly since the study team found limited efforts at national level to prioritise a systematic gender-responsive approach to the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the RRPs.

Recommendations for Member States and the European Commission to ensure the EU recovery funds and the resilience efforts adopt a gender perspective

Based on the research findings, we provided policy recommendations to ensure a gender-responsive design of COVID-19 recovery policies and measures.

What impact have we made?

  • The study enabled EIGE’s support to the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU to ensure continuous monitoring of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action (the international agenda and blueprint for equality between women and men) within the EU.
  • The main findings of the study fed into a set of draft Council Conclusions on “Mainstreaming a gender equality perspective in policies, programmes, and budgets”. For example, the Council invited the Member States to step up their efforts to systematically promote gender equality and gender mainstreaming into all stages of policymaking and legislation, and to ensure the timely and effective implementation of measures to strengthen gender equality in their national RRPs.

Check out the full report ‘Evidence to Action: Gender equality and gender mainstreaming in the COVID-19 recovery’ by following the link below.