Checking privilege: Do MEPs reflect the diversity of the EU?

Part 2 – Shutterstock


People from across Europe are elected every five years to the European Parliament, but these MEPs do not represent all citizens of the EU on an equal footing. Out of the 705 MEPs from 27 member states, who is missing out? We found groups including the youth and disabled were significantly underrepresented, and though there are improvements in gender balance, there is still a way to go before equality.

Over the course of the project, a team of five newsrooms coordinated by SWR collated and analysed data on every MEP. We also compiled comparable statistics for the overall EU population. The investigation team spoke to numerous experts across Europe about our findings which focused on gender, disability, age and education.

Main findings:

  • Men dominate the European Parliament, with 425 male MEPs compared to 280 female MEPs. This contrasts with the EU population, where over half (51%) are women. While the proportion of women in the parliament has increased since 1979, reaching four out of ten MEPs, it is still not reflective of the general population. Left-wing political groups have a higher proportion of women compared to right-wing groups; additionally, gender representation varies greatly across different committees within the parliament.
  • The median age of MEPs is 54, older than the EU population’s median age of 44.5. Age distribution varies significantly across member states and political groups, with the Green group having the youngest MEPs (median age 48) and the Conservative group the oldest (median age 58).
  • MEPs are highly educated, with nearly 15% holding doctorates, compared to just over 1% of the general population in Germany. Scientists are well-represented among MEPs, highlighting a strong academic and professional background within the parliament.
  • Data on MEPs’ ethnic identity, sexual orientation, and disability status is limited. Estimates suggest around 4.3% of MEPs identify as non-white, compared to at least 10% of the general population. Some member states do not collect such data, making it difficult to draw comprehensive comparisons.


The data unit

Maximilian Henning (SWR, coordinator) is a freelance journalist specialised on digital topics. He regularly writes for and Tagesspiegel Background, with bylines at EUobserver, and others. He also does data journalism for the German public broadcaster SWR.

EDJNet members which took part in this investigation: