Published 28 August 2019 in Surveys
The third edition of our International Development Barometer takes stock of French perceptions of gender equality in France and in developing countries, for which there appears to be widespread support.
There is widespread support in France for gender equality.
There are however differences of opinion when it comes to those who think gender equality should be a universal principle compared to those who see its application in developing countries as attempting to impose "western" ideology on different cultures.
Gender equality: myth or (already) reality?
43% of French people think that women and men are equal in France, while 33% think that they are not. Unsurprisingly, men are more likely (42%) than women to think that gender equality is already a reality.
More French people than any other of the four countries in the survey (Germany, UK and US) think that gender equality not yet achieved with 43% compared to 36%, 32% and 25% respectively.
Gender equality: a worthwhile investment?
76% of French people think it is the "right thing to do" to tackle gender equality. Using this word, and the principle of "just" action, encourages a positive reply: a large majority regardless of gender or political preference of respondents. However, young people under 25 are less likely (78%) than those older than 50 (84%) to agree that tackling gender equality is the "right" thing to do.
67% of French people think that tackling gender inequality globally is a "worthwhile" investment. This is not an assessment based on values, but instead on the practicality or effectiveness of gender equality policies.
Gender equality at work: the gender pay gap
According to INSEE, the French national statistics agency, the average income for women working in the private sector in 2014 was 24% lower than for men. 85% of women and 72% of men recognised the reality of this gender pay gap. There was similar recognition across those who voted in the first round of the Presidential elections for (center-candidate) Emmanuel Macron (85%) compared with (far-left candidate) Jean Luc Mélenchon (84%) and voters for (mainstream left candidate) Benoit Hamon (86%)
According to the Global Gender Gap report Global Gender Gap Index 2017, perceptions of gender pay gaps are almost inversely proportionate to reality. France has the smallest gender pay gap of the four countries surveyed (women are paid on average 74% of men’s salaries, comparer to 68% for Germany, 65% for the US and 55% for the UK), and yet French respondents had greatest assumption of unequal pay for men and women at work in their country.
In all four countries, around 40% of of respondents, both men and women, thought that men felt threatened by women’s achievements at work. 75% of French people, both men and women, thought that paid leave should be equally distributed between men and women at the birth of a child.
Violence against women
With regards to the role of international organisations, tackling violence against women was discerned as the absolute top priority for gender equality, and seen as an urgent subject to tackle.
French people are much more aware, and sensitive to the situation of women when it comes to consequences, such as violence. There is less immediate support or common ground over "correcting" the causes of gender inequality, such as gender equality training, bringing more women into work or into politics, etc.
Promoting women’s rights: a goal, amongst others
53% of respondents would like the promotion of women’s rights to be a priority of French international aid to poor countries. This idea has the most support with those over 50, and almost universal levels of support from all political preferences, except those voting for the far-right.
Changing the phrasing of the question to "support for women’s empowerment" rather than "women’s rights" does make any noticeable change to answers.
Among France’s aid priorities, respondents thought that fighting hunger should come first, followed by access to education, then health, then women’s empowerment, and finally by the need to tackle humanitarian crises.
Promoting gender equality: a universal value?
Promoting gender equality across the world is something which draws a sharp difference in opinion between:
those who are concerned that the principle of gender equality is a "western" conception, imposed on developing countries by developed countries (a view from mainly male, and right-wing voting respondents)
those who think that gender equality is a fundamental and universal principle, regardless of where it is applied (a view from mainly female, and left-wing voting respondents).
Despite this, fewer people think that development projects with a gender equality objective are figments of western women’s imagination (rather than a concrete need for women in developing countries) than those who think the opposite.