Gender Equality for Men in Finland NGO’s comments on EU’s Gender Equality Strategy for 2020-2024 on five specific points

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1. Gender Equality indicators and metrics

The key problem in EU’s gender equality efforts is the indicators and metrics being utilized. Instead of indicating how men and women fare on different aspects, EIGE metrics only emphasize whether women fare worse than men on those aspects. Even though men may fare much worse than women in some areas of life, this is not reported as a gender equality issue; conclusions instead state that gender equality has been achieved. This bias in the way information is portrayed shall be eliminated.

The Gender Equality indicators that are selected in EU’s Gender Equality work tell very little about issues affecting men and women in each member state. The Basic Indicator of Gender Inequality (https://bigi.genderequality.info/) is an attempt at remedying this shortcoming. It aims at evaluating how well Gender Equality has been achieved for everyone. Its conclusions emphasize how, with the exception of Italy, the situation of women is better than men’s in all EU countries. Gender Equality therefore ought to be evaluated in ways that measure its achievement level for everyone, and not only using a handful of criteria that conveniently support a small elite’s gendered composition.

2. Labor Market Participation

According to EU’s Gender Equality Strategy, women’s lesser presence on the labor markets is considered a Gender Equality issue, yet men’s lesser academic success is not acknowledged as a Gender Equality issue. The Gender Equality Strategy shall pay particular attention to boys’ lesser academic success and young men’s social exclusion in EU countries. Gendered differences in academic success and school performance constitute a Gender Equality issue with severe long-term consequences. For instance, in Finland, one out of eight boys completing comprehensive school cannot write or read adequately. PISA rankings show that differences between boys and girls are among the widest among OECD countries, and the situation has worsened every year. Men are also visibly under-represented in higher education in all EU countries.

The share of young men in social exclusion is a significant problem in all EU countries. In Finland, as much as one fifth of 20-25 year old men is neither working or studying. We strongly believe that one cause of this symptom is that Gender Equality metrics are focused on women and Gender Equality policies are strictly focused on improving women’s situation, which is why we feel that EU’s Gender Equality work’s focus ought to measure true Gender Equality.

3. Violence

The Finnish bird’s eye view on violence shows that a far greater share of violence is against men than against women, and that the more brutal the type of violence, the more likely it is against men. The same can certainly be said for all EU countries. Men also face as much domestic violence as women (at least in Finland).

The most efficient way of preventing violence is to oppose all forms of violence against everyone, instead of only opposing violence against women. The mere existence of international treaties and initiatives on violence against women shall not be considered as an obstacle to acknowledging violence against men. The goal shall be to create a violence-free culture, instead of perpetuating the current focus on gender-based violence.

EU shall take interest in factual data on violence against both men and women, instead of perpetuating its ideological stance on the issue. Research on the manifestation of violence and on services available to victims and perpetrators must be performed from gender-neutral starting points. In order to achieve balance in its strategies, EU must commit itself to investigating the prevalence of violence against men, including domestic violence, in all EU member states.

4. Equality before the Law

In EU countries, men and women are not equal before the Law. For instance, in Finland, the legislation discriminates against men; conscription only affects men. We find it awkward that EU wants to improve the situation of all women all around the world, and yet allows its own member states to enforce entirely different legal status onto its citizens depending on their gender. Gender Equality issues especially affecting men must be taken seriously, too.

5. Income Equality

A key point in EU’s Gender Equality Strategy is the Gender Pay Gap between men and women. The large differences between genders that are presented correspond to Eurostat’s traditional method for producing comparative data between EU member states. However, this method doesn’t comply with EU’s Equal Pay Directive for measuring the Gender Pay Gap.

EU shall better instruct its member states towards uniform methodology and criteria for measuring the Gender Pay Gap. The key point shall be to measure actual hours worked.

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