Women and frontline workers more often targeted at work

Women in the EU are 3.6 times more likely to suffer from unwanted sexual attention than men, Eurofound, an EU agency focusing on research for better work-related policies, found.

A young woman (18–34 years) has a three times higher likelihood to report unwanted sexual attention than men of the same age, and 10 times higher than the oldest group of men (50+ years).

The study found that overall women and frontline workers are most exposed to the risks of adverse social behaviour at work, resulting in burnout, exhaustion, anxiety and depression.

Adverse social behaviour can refer to instances of bullying, harassment, violence, verbal abuse or threats, and unwanted sexual attention, Eurofound noted.

In the EU, 12.5 percent of workers experienced some form of adverse social behaviour at work in 2021, however, the share of women was consistently higher than that of men.

With regards to unwanted sexual attention the difference is striking: there are four times as many women (2.9 percent) who report this type of behaviour than men (0.8).

Unwanted sexual attention refers to situations where someone expresses sexual interest — such as asking out on a date, flirting, whistling, or body contact — even when the target of that attention has indicated that the attention is unwanted, Eurofound has said.

Unwanted sexual attention can come from co-workers or managers, but also from people outside the workplace, such as customers, clients, or patients.

Men between the age of 18 and 34 get the same amount of unwanted sexual attention as women above 50.

Women younger than 50 get significantly more unwanted sexual attention. For instance, only 0.5 percent of men above 50 report this behaviour, while 5.6 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 34 are confronted with it.

Violence at the workplace is also an acute problem for frontline workers, according to the most recent data from 2021.

Healthcare workers reported up to three times higher levels of unwanted sexual attention than the EU average (5.7 percent compared with 1.7 percent).

Eurofound has warned that this can have a long-term impact on targeted people, with the effects potentially lasting for years after the initial incident, affecting families and co-workers as well.

It also has a negative impact on how workers can function afterwards.

People who experience adverse social behaviour in the workplace are around three times more likely to experience physical and emotional burnout (32 percent compared to 10 percent) and emotional exhaustion (40 percent compared to 14 percent).

They are also almost twice as likely to suffer from anxiety (53 percent compared to 27 percent) or be at risk of depression (38 percent compared to 20 percent), the study, based on 2021 survey data, showed.

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