Hunt for gender equality stalls in developed world

08 May 2019 3 min. read
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Despite global efforts to improve the standing of women in society, a yawning gender gap still persists, even in the most economically developed nations of the world. The UK and the US perform particularly poorly in this regard, especially in contrast to poorer nations such as Bangladesh and Nicaragua.

Despite decades of slow progress, women remain at a major disadvantage in terms of their lot in society. Concern around inequality between men and women therefore remains, even in the world’s most developed countries. To better understand the extent of inequality across education, health, economic and political systems, a report was developed by the World Economic Forum, titled ‘The Global Gender Gap Report 2018’.

The report focuses on the equality gap between men and women, rather than their level of attainment per country. In addition, the report looks at outcomes with respect to the gap, rather than inputs. In doing so, the study found that a considerable distance remains between men and women globally. The report notes an average population weighted distance to parity at 68%, meaning a 32% gender gap remaining to be closed.

The top ten best global performances for gender equality gap

According to the study, political empowerment shows the largest disparity at present, at 77%, followed by the Economic Participation and Opportunity gap, which came in at 41 %. There is some good news in the report, however, with educational attainment and health and survival gaps significantly lower at 4.4% and 4.6%, respectively.

As it stands, no country has reduced the gap by 80% or more. Some countries have closed the gap considerably relative to their peers. The top performing countries are all Nordic, with Iceland at number one, followed by Norway, Sweden and Finland. Nicaragua takes the number five spot, followed by Rwanda at number six. New Zealand comes in 7th, and Philippines 8th. The top ten is rounded off by Ireland at number nine and Namibia in tenth spot. The UK, meanwhile, comes in at 15th place.

Regional factors

In terms of region, Western Europe has the lowest relative gap at 76%, followed by Norther America, at 73%. Eastern Europe and Central Asia meanwhile, score 71%, with former European Eastern Bloc countries noted for relatively strong performances in economic sub-indexes. Latin America and the Caribbean performed better than the global average at 71%. The Middle East rated at 60%, approximately 8% below the global average.

Range of scores

War-torn areas tend to perform poorly, with Yemen at the bottom of the list, while Iraq and Syria ranking a few spots higher. Pakistan stands at second last on the index. Living – at least domestically – in peace is by no means an indicator of accelerated change, though. Though an economic powerhouse, the US does rates poorly in terms of political empowerment of women, falling below the bottom 20% of the scale, while France and Sweden only manage to sit in the middle. In contrast, Bangladesh and Nicaragua have relatively stronger performances, while Iceland tops the scale.

For the Economic Opportunity and Participation sub-index, Laos tops the scale, while Latvia and the Philippines are in the upper 80%. Germany too had a relatively strong performance, while the US came in at around 75%, and China scored approximately 65%. Saudi Arabia rated below 60%, while Yemen has few opportunities for female economic activity – though, once again, the country remains a war zone.

Health and survival is generally strong, although China falls behind due in part due to sex ratio at birth being in favour of males. For education, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo perform particularly poorly, with additional poor showings from Nigeria and Pakistan.