The Global Gender Gap Index was first introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006 as a framework for capturing the magnitude of gender-based disparities and tracking their progress over time. The Index benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, education, health and political criteria, and provides country rankings that allow for effective comparisons across regions and income groups. The rankings are designed to create global awareness of the challenges posed by gender gaps and the opportunities created by reducing them. The methodology and quantitative analysis behind the rankings are intended to serve as a basis for designing effective measures for reducing gender gaps.
Last year’s edition marked the 10th anniversary of the Index and examined the changing patterns of gender-based inequities around the world over a full decade’s worth of data. This year’s 11th edition continues to build on the well-established strengths of the Report while adapting a number of elements—namely, the Index’s threshold for calculating gender gaps in estimated earned income, the Report’s regional classification, and visualization of results—to evolve the Global Gender Gap Index for its second decade.
The first part of this chapter reviews the underlying concepts employed in creating the Global Gender Gap Index and outlines the methods used to calculate it. The second part presents the 2016 rankings, overall trends, regional performance and notable country cases. It also provides information on progress over time and progress within income groups. Next, the Report lays out the economic case for gender parity, with a focus on the growing evidence of inter-linkages between gender gaps and the future economic prospects and resilience of industries and countries. The fourth part of this chapter takes a deeper look at gender parity as a key element of human capital in countries all throughout the world, examining global patterns, contextual factors, rates of change and proposals to prepare for the future.
The Country Profiles contained in Part 2 of this Report give a more detailed picture of the relative strengths and weaknesses of each country’s performance compared with that of other nations and relative to its own past performance. The first page of each profile contains key demographic and economic indicators as well as detailed information on the country’s performance in both 2016 and in the year in which it was first featured in the Report. The second page of the Country Profiles highlights more than 70 gender-related indicators that provide a fuller context for the country’s performance. These indicators include information on workforce participation, economic leadership, access to assets and technology, political leadership, family, the care economy, education and skills, and health-related factors.
Measuring the Global Gender Gap
The methodology of the Index has remained stable since its original conception in 2006, providing a basis for robust cross-country and time-series analysis. This year’s edition introduces an updated threshold for estimating gender parity in earned income, adjusting the income level cap to better reflect contemporary costs of living and bringing the Index in line with the latest thinking and methodology of statistical reports by the United Nations and others. A detailed discussion of this adjustment is provided in Appendix D.
Three underlying concepts
There are three basic concepts underlying the Global Gender Gap Index, forming the basis of how indicators were chosen, how the data is treated and the scale used. First, the Index focuses on measuring gaps rather than levels. Second, it captures gaps in outcome variables rather than gaps in input variables. Third, it ranks countries according to gender equality rather than women’s empowerment. These three concepts are briefly outlined below. For a description of how these concepts are captured by the construction techniques used in the creation of the Index, please see the Construction of the Index section below.
Gaps vs. levels
The Index is designed to measure gender-based gaps in access to resources and opportunities in countries rather than the actual levels of the available resources and opportunities in those countries. We do this to disassociate the Global Gender Gap Index from countries’ levels of development. In other words, the Index is constructed to rank countries on their gender gaps not on their development level. For example, rich countries, generally speaking, are able to offer more education and health opportunities to all members of society, although this is quite independent of the gender-related gaps that may exist within those higher levels of health or education. The Global Gender Gap Index rewards countries for smaller gaps in access to these resources, regardless of the overall level of resources. Thus, in the case of education, the Index penalizes or rewards countries based on the size of the gap between male and female enrolment rates, but not for the overall levels of education in the country.
Outcomes vs. inputs
The second basic concept underlying the Global Gender Gap Index is that it evaluates countries based on outcomes rather than inputs or means. Our aim is to provide a snapshot of where men and women stand with regard to some fundamental outcome indicators related to basic rights such as health, education, economic participation and political empowerment. Indicators related to country-specific policies, rights, culture or customs—factors that we consider “input” or “means” indicators—are not included in the Index, but they are discussed further in the analytic sections of this chapter, as well as being featured in the Report’s Country Profiles. For example, the Index includes an indicator comparing the gap between men and women in high-skilled jobs such as legislators, senior officials and managers (an outcome indicator) but does not include data on the length of maternity leave (a policy indicator). This approach has contributed significantly to the Index’s distinctiveness over the years and, we believe, continues to provide the most objective basis for discussing underlying contextual factors.
Gender equality vs. women’s empowerment
The third distinguishing feature of the Global Gender Gap Index is that it ranks countries according to their proximity to gender equality rather than to women’s empowerment. Our aim is to focus on whether the gap between women and men in the chosen indicators has declined, rather than whether women are winning the so-called “battle of the sexes.” Hence, the Index rewards countries that reach the point where outcomes for women equal those for men, but it neither rewards nor penalizes cases in which women are outperforming men on particular indicators in some countries. Thus, a country that has higher enrolment for girls rather than boys in secondary school will score equal to a country where boys’ and girls’ enrolment is the same.
The four subindexes
The Global Gender Gap Index examines the gap between men and women in four fundamental categories (subindexes): Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival and Political Empowerment. Table 1 displays all four of these subindexes and the 14 different indicators that compose them, along with the sources of data used for each.
Economic Participation and Opportunity
This subindex contains three concepts: the participation gap, the remuneration gap and the advancement gap. The participation gap is captured using the difference between women and men in labour force participation rates. The remuneration gap is captured through a hard data indicator (ratio of estimated female-to-male earned income)1 and a qualitative indicator gathered through the World Economic Forum’s Executive Opinion Survey (wage equality for similar work). Finally, the gap between the advancement of women and men is captured through two hard data statistics (the ratio of women to men among legislators, senior officials and managers, and the ratio of women to men among technical and professional workers).
This subindex captures the gap between women’s and men’s current access to education through ratios of women to men in primary-, secondary- and tertiary-level education. A longer-term view of the country’s ability to educate women and men in equal numbers is captured through the ratio of the female literacy rate to the male literacy rate.
Health and Survival
This subindex provides an overview of the differences between women’s and men’s health through the use of two indicators. The first is the sex ratio at birth, which aims specifically to capture the phenomenon of “missing women”, prevalent in many countries with a strong son preference. Second, we use the gap between women’s and men’s healthy life expectancy. This measure provides an estimate of the number of years that women and men can expect to live in good health by taking into account the years lost to violence, disease, malnutrition or other relevant factors.
This subindex measures the gap between men and women at the highest level of political decision-making through the ratio of women to men in minister-level positions and the ratio of women to men in parliamentary positions. In addition, we include the ratio of women to men in terms of years in executive office (prime minister or president) for the last 50 years. A clear drawback in this category is the absence of any indicators capturing differences between the participation of women and men at local levels of government. Should such data become available at a globally comparative level in future years, it will be considered for inclusion in the Index.
Construction of the Index
The overall Global Gender Gap Index is constructed using a four-step process, outlined below. Some of the indicators listed in Table 1 require specific construction or modification in order to be used in the Index. For further information on the indicator-specific calculations, please refer to the User’s Guide: How Country Profiles Work section in Part 2 of this Report.
Convert to ratios
Initially, all data is converted to female-to-male ratios. For example, a country with 20% of women in ministerial positions is assigned a ratio of 20 women to 80 men, thus a value of 0.25. This is to ensure that the Index is capturing gaps between women and men’s attainment levels, rather than the levels themselves.
Truncate data at equality benchmark
As a second step, these ratios are truncated at the “equality benchmark.” For all indicators, except the two health indicators, this equality benchmark is considered to be 1, meaning equal numbers of women and men. In the case of the sex ratio at birth, the equality benchmark is set at 0.944.2 and the healthy life expectancy benchmark is set at 1.06.3 Truncating the data at the equality benchmarks for each assigns the same score to a country that has reached parity between women and men and one where women have surpassed men.
The type of scale chosen determines whether the Index is rewarding women’s empowerment or gender equality.4 To capture gender equality, two possible scales were considered. One was a negative-positive scale capturing the size and direction of the gender gap. This scale penalizes either men’s advantage over women or women’s advantage over men, and gives the highest points to absolute equality. The second choice was a one-sided scale that measures how close women are to reaching parity with men, but does not reward or penalize countries for having a gender gap in the other direction. We find the one-sided scale more appropriate for our purposes, as it does not reward countries for having exceeded the parity benchmark. However, disparities in either direction are recorded in the Country Profiles.
Calculate subindex scores
The third step in the process involves calculating the weighted average of the indicators within each subindex to create the subindex scores. Averaging the different indicators would implicitly give more weight to the measure that exhibits the largest variability or standard deviation. We therefore first normalize the indicators by equalizing their standard deviations. For example, within the Educational Attainment subindex, standard deviations for each of the four indicators are calculated. Then we determine what a 1% point change would translate to in terms of standard deviations by dividing 0.01 by the standard deviation for each indicator. These four values are then used as weights to calculate the weighted average of the four indicators.
This way of weighting indicators allows us to make sure that each indicator has the same relative impact on the subindex. For example, an indicator with a small variability or standard deviation, such as primary enrolment rate, gets a larger weight within the Educational Attainment subindex than an indicator with a larger variability, such as tertiary enrolment rate. Therefore, a country with a large gender gap in primary education (an indicator where most countries have achieved near-parity between women and men) will be more heavily penalized. Similarly, in the case of the sex ratio indicator (within the Health and Survival subindex), where most countries have a very high sex ratio and the spread of the data is small, the larger weight will penalize more heavily those countries that deviate from this value. Table 2 displays the values of the weights used.5
Calculate final scores
For of all subindexes, the highest possible score is 1 (parity) and the lowest possible score is 0 (imparity), thus binding the scores between inequality and equality benchmarks.6 An un-weighted average of each subindex score is used to calculate the overall Global Gender Gap Index score. Similar to subindex scores, this final value ranges between 1 (parity) and 0 (imparity), thus allowing for comparisons relative to ideal standards of equality in addition to relative country rankings.7 The parity and imparity benchmarks remain fixed across time, allowing the reader to track individual country progress in relation to an ideal standard of equality. Furthermore, the option of roughly interpreting the final Index scores as a percentage value that reveals how a country has reduced its gender gap should help make the Index more intuitively appealing to readers.8
Results and analysis
Country Coverage, 2016
We aim to include a maximum number of countries in the Report every year, within the constraints posed by data availability. To be included in the Report, a country must have data available for a minimum of 12 indicators out of the 14 that make up the Index. In 2016, we have been able to include 144 countries in the Report. Of these, 107 have consistently been included in the Report every year since the first edition published in 2006.
Nearly 200 countries were considered for inclusion this year. Out of the 144 ultimately covered in this Report, 18 countries had one data point missing and 31 countries had two data points missing. Missing data is clearly marked on each relevant Country Profile. This year’s Report features one new country never previously covered, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and one country previously covered once in 2012, Timor-Leste.
Until last year’s edition, the Report grouped countries into six broader geographical groupings: Asia and the Pacific; Europe and Central Asia; Latin America and the Caribbean; Middle East and North Africa; North America; and Sub-Saharan Africa.
As part of the careful updating of certain elements of the Report, going forward the Global Gender Gap Report will group countries into eight geographical groupings: East Asia and the Pacific; Eastern Europe and Central Asia; Latin America and the Caribbean; Middle East and North Africa; North America; South Asia; Sub-Saharan Africa; and Western Europe. The classification of countries according to these updated categories is detailed in Appendix A. Datasets of both the classical groupings and (compiled retroactively) the updated groupings are available for time-series analysis.
Figure 1 provides a global snapshot of the gender gap in the four subindexes. It shows that, on average, the 144 countries covered in the Report have closed 96% of the gap in health outcomes between women and men, unchanged since last year, and more than 95% of the gap in educational attainment, an improvement of almost one full percentage point since last year and the highest value ever measured by the Index. However, the gaps between women and men on economic participation and political empowerment remain wide: only 59% of the economic participation gap has been closed—a continued reversal on several years of progress and the lowest value measured by the Index since 2008—and about 23% of the political gap, continuing a trend of slow but steady improvement. Weighted by population, in 2016, the average progress on closing the global gender gap stands at a score of 0.683—meaning an average gap of 31.7% remains to be closed worldwide across the four Index dimensions in order to achieve universal gender parity.
Out of the 142 countries covered by the Index both this year and last year, 68 countries have increased their overall gender gap score compared to last year, while 74 have seen it decrease. It therefore has been an ambiguous year for global gender parity, with uneven progress at best.
Table 3 displays the 2016 index and subindex rankings, organized from highest to lowest by rank, on the overall index. No country in the world has fully closed its gender gap, but four out of the five Nordic countries and, for the first time this year, Rwanda, have closed more than 80% of theirs. Yemen, the lowest ranking country, has closed slightly less than 52% of its gender gap. For further analysis, refer to the Performance by Subindex, Top Ten, and Performance by Region and Country sections.
Performance by Subindex
Table 4 displays the rankings by subindex, organized highest to lowest by rank per subindex. On the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, 11 countries (three less than last year), including four from Sub-Saharan Africa—Burundi, Botswana, Rwanda and Ghana—and three Nordic countries—Norway, Iceland, and Sweden—have closed more than 80% of their gap. However, 19 countries, 15 of which are from the Middle East and North Africa region, have closed less than 50% of the gap for this subindex. Pakistan and Syria hold the last two spots on this subindex. Thirty-two countries have scores below the world average (0.586, weighted by population) on this subindex. The Report’s Country Profiles include a wide range of additional contextual data, including on workforce participation, economic leadership, access to assets and technology and the care economy.
In 2016, 24 countries have fully closed the gap on the Educational Attainment subindex, one country less than last year. Guinea, Benin and Chad hold the last three spots on this subindex, with Chad having closed less than 70% of its education gender gap. In total, there are 17 countries where women still have less than 90% of the education outcomes that men have—a marked improvement over last year, when this was still the case for 22 countries. Thirty-four countries have scores below the world average (0.955, weighted by population) on this subindex. While the Index takes into account four key indicators to measure the gender gap on education outcomes, the Report’s Country Profiles provide information on additional gaps between women and men—on out-of-school children of primary and secondary school age, education attainment rates, advanced degrees, STEM education and skill diversity.
Thirty-eight countries (two less than last year) have fully closed their gender gap on the Health and Survival subindex. India, Armenia and China are the lowest-ranked countries, and no country currently has a gap bigger than 90% on this subindex. Only seven countries have scores below the world average (0.957, weighted by population) on this subindex. While the Index takes into account two key measures of gender gaps, this year’s Country Profiles present additional contextual data that reveals differences between female and male health outcomes from cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, respiratory disease, HIV/AIDS, suicide and malnutrition. Additionally, the Country Profiles contain detailed information on maternal health and domestic violence.
On the Political Empowerment subindex, only Iceland has closed more than 70% of its gender gap and only Finland has closed more than 60% of its gender gap; 39 countries, from across all world regions, have closed less than 10% of the gap (unchanged from last year). Oman, Lebanon and Qatar have the lowest rankings on this subindex, having closed less than 3% of their political gender gap. Weighted by population, 100 countries rank below the subindex world average (0.233) this year. In addition to the indicators included in the Index, the Country Profiles present detailed information on women’s political participation, such as the number of years since the establishment of women’s suffrage, female heads of government to date, and the existence of voluntary political party quotas.
While nine countries—Bahamas, Barbados, Finland, France, Jamaica, Latvia, Lesotho, Nicaragua and the Philippines—have fully closed the gap on both the Health and Survival and Educational Attainment subindexes, no country has yet closed either the Economic Participation and Opportunity or Political Empowerment subindex gaps.
Figure 2 illustrates the range of country scores for the four subindexes. The population-weighted average for each subindex is highlighted by blue diamonds. The Educational Attainment subindex is on the verge of overtaking the Health and Survival subindex, which has been stagnating for a number of years, to become the subindex closest to reaching universal gender parity. In fact, as of this year, it has already done so for the 107 countries that have been consistently featured since the first edition of the Report. However, Health and Survival is also the subindex with the lowest spread of scores, with most countries clustering around a fairly high achievement point near parity, while issues remain primarily in a number of large-population countries with distorted birth ratios due to “missing women” and gender-specific gaps in access to healthcare. By contrast, despite much recent progress in a large number of countries, global outcomes on the Educational Attainment subindex remain more uneven, with a wider spread of scores. The widest range in scores is found on the Political Empowerment subindex, followed by Economic Participation and Opportunity.
This year’s edition of the Global Gender Gap Index sees one new entrant to its top ten list as well as some notable rank changes. The top spots continue to be held by smaller European countries, particularly the Nordics who occupy the top four positions, with two countries from the East Asia and the Pacific region, one country from the Sub-Saharan Africa region, and one country from the Latin America and the Caribbean region also represented. Compared to the world average, the leaders of the Index perform particularly strongly on Political Empowerment, with all ranking in the top 20 on this subindex.
Iceland (1) takes the top spot for the eighth consecutive year, closing more than 87% of its overall gender gap. It remains the top performer on Political Empowerment and in the top ten on Economic Participation and Opportunity on the back of solid improvements in the number of women among legislators, senior officials and managers. However, this year’s update of income scales on the estimate earned income indicator reveals that there remains an overall income gender gap to close. This is corroborated by its performance on the Wage equality for similar work indicator, for which Iceland ranks in 11th place this year. Since 2009, the country has fully closed its gender gap on Educational Attainment. Since the first edition of the Index in 2006, Iceland has closed approximately 12% of its total gender gap, making it one of the fastest-improving countries in the world.
Finland (2) overtakes Norway and regains its second place in the world, closing nearly 85% of its overall gender gap. It has fully closed its gender gap on Educational Attainment and Health and Survival and remains the runner-up on Political Empowerment, reaching parity in the number of women in ministerial positions. The Index’s updated estimated earned income scale reveals that Finland, too, has some work left to do to fully close its overall income gender gap.
Norway (3) drops a spot and returns to its previous third-place position, closing more than 84% of its overall gender gap. Even with the Index’s revised estimated earned income scale it remains in the global top ten in this category as confirmed by an equally strong performance on the Wage equality for similar work indicator. Norway also remains the third top performer on the Political Empowerment subindex. It moves up four spots on the Educational Attainment subindex but its gender gap remains open—as does its Health and Survival gender gap, which has in fact slightly widened since last year.
Sweden (4) maintains its respective ranking as fourth best for the eighth year running, closing more than 81% of its overall gender gap. It takes a strong position on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, due to, among other factors, an increase in female legislators, senior officials and managers, where the country moves up seven positions compared to last year. It also nearly closes its Educational Attainment gender gap. On the Political Empowerment subindex, Sweden drops a rank despite reaching parity in the number of women in ministerial positions.
Rwanda (5) crosses the threshold of closing 80% of its gender gap and overtakes Ireland to break into the top five for the first time since entering the Index. This is mostly due to improvements on its Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex score, where the country moves up six spots over last year on the back of improved parity in estimated earned income. It remains the country with the highest share of female parliamentarians in the world, 64%, and maintains its respective score on the Political Empowerment subindex despite dropping a spot to eighth. Its Educational Attainment gender gap remains open and ranks 112th despite enrolment in tertiary education improvements. Its Health and Survival gender gap also remains open, placing it 94th in the world.
Ireland (6) moves down a spot and leaves the top five performers, dropping just below closing 80% of its overall gender gap. This is mainly due to a decline on its Economic Participation and Opportunity score, with the Index’s updated estimated earned income scale revealing a larger-than-before income gender gap. For the first time since 2011, the country has fully closed its gender gap on Educational Attainment. Due to improvements on its Political Empowerment score, with more women in parliament, it joins the top five performers in this category. It is also the third-ranked country in the world for number of years with a female head of state.
The Philippines (7) maintains its respective ranking as the highest performer in the East Asia and the Pacific region, despite a slight decline in its overall score. A lower Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex score, caused by fewer female legislators, senior officials and managers, partly accounts for this fall. Since 2006, the country has fully closed its gender gap on the Health and Survival subindex. It has also managed to fully re-close its Educational Attainment gender gap after a re-opening for the first time last year.
Slovenia (8) moves up a spot due to improvements on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex and the Wage equality for similar work indicator. With nearly 79% of its overall gender gap closed, it is the strongest performing country in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Since 2006, it has closed approximately 16% of its gender gap, making it one of the fastest-improving countries in the world, although its gender gaps on both the Educational Attainment and Health and Survival subindexes are yet to be fully closed.
Similarly, New Zealand (9) climbs one rank due to improving its position on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, with higher female labour force participation. It is yet to fully close its Health and Survival gender gap; and, for the first time since 2008, its Educational Attainment gender gap has re-opened. The country also maintains its strong Political Empowerment subindex score, despite dropping a spot to 16th.
Nicaragua (10) re-enters the Index top ten for the first time since 2014. With 78% of its overall gender gap closed, it remains the best performer in the Latin America and the Caribbean region for the fifth year running. It has fully closed the gender gap on the Educational Attainment and Health and Survival indexes, and ranks fourth in the world on Political Empowerment, with more than 50% of its political gender gap now closed. However, it ranks 92nd on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex and its economic gender gap remains wide. Since 2006, Nicaragua has closed approximately 19% of its overall gender gap—making it one of the fastest-improving countries in the world.
Performance by Region and Country
The Global Gender Gap Index reveals that all countries can do more to close the gender gap. Across the Index, there are only five countries that have closed 80% of the gap or more. In addition, there are 64 countries that have closed between 70% and 80% of their gender gap. A further 65 countries have closed between 60% and 70%, while 10 countries have closed between 50% and 60%. In 2016, no country had closed less than 50% of their overall gender gap. However, there is wide variety in progress on closing the gender gap in every world region, with both success stories and underperforming countries in each. Table 5 displays this year’s rankings by regional classification, organized by rank within each regional group.
Figure 3 shows the average gap that remains to be closed in each world region, based on the Report’s updated regional classification. At a global level, only two regions—Western Europe and North America—have a remaining gender gap of less than 30%, at 25% and 28%, respectively. Latin America and the Caribbean and Eastern Europe and Central Asia are virtually tied at a remaining gender gap of exactly 30% each. They are followed by East Asia and the Pacific, with a remaining gender gap of 31.7%, Sub-Saharan Africa, with a gap of 32.1%, and South Asia, with a gap of 33%. The Middle East and North Africa region is yet to close a gender gap of just under 40%. The reader should note that population-weighted group averages are used throughout the Report.
Figure 4 shows the range of country scores on the overall Index for each region. It reveals, for example, that, despite its high regional average, there is wide spread of outcomes among the 20 countries covered in the Western Europe region. A similarly wide spread of country performance also exists among the 30 countries covered in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. Here, this diversity of outcomes is frequently driven by different performance on the Educational Attainment subindex. In other regions, the largest diversity of outcomes exists across the Economic Participation and Opportunity and Political Empowerment subindexes, while performance differences across the Educational Attainment and Health and Survival subindexes tend to be comparatively minor. A detailed discussion of regional and country-level results follows below.
East Asia and the Pacific
With an average remaining gender gap of just under 32%, the East Asia and the Pacific region scores in the middle of the range of the Global Gender Gap Index. With the Philippines and New Zealand, the region is home to two of the overall Index’s top ten performers, both having closed over 78% of their total gender gap—far ahead of the region’s next best-placed country—while the lower half of the region’s economies are yet to cross the threshold of having closed 70% of it or more. The region is also home to three of the five most-improved countries over the past decade on the Health and Survival gender gap, although out of the 16 countries in the region only four—Cambodia, Mongolia, Thailand and the Philippines—have fully closed that gap. With a regional average of 94%, East Asia and the Pacific is the lowest-ranked region globally on this subindex. Only two countries in the region have currently fully closed the Education Attainment gender gap, the Philippines being one of the two. Half of the countries in the region have closed the gender gap for professional and technical workers.
Out of the 16 countries covered by the Index in the region this year, five countries have increased their overall score compared to last year, while 10 have a decreased score. One new country joined the Index this year.
The Philippines (7) and New Zealand (9) maintain their overall Index top ten rankings on the back of strong scores on closing the Political Empowerment gender gap and despite the Philippines’ small decline on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex. Lao PDR (43) becomes the third-ranked country in the region. This is due to Lao PDR’s progress in narrowing the gender gap in estimated earned income, tertiary enrolment and women parliamentarians, in addition to actually fully closing the gender gap in labour force participation—one of only five countries (and the only non-African one) to do so. Australia (46) is affected by the updated estimated earned income scale, highlighting the continued existence of a gender gap in income for Australia. The next-ranked country is Singapore (55), which, likewise, shows a wide gender gap in estimated earned income. However, this is balanced out by simultaneous progress in closing the gender gap for professional and technical workers and for secondary school enrolment. It is the country that has made the most progress in the region on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex over the past decade. Mongolia (58) experiences a small decrease in its overall score and ranking due to a widening in the gender gap on the Legislators, senior officials and managers indicator.
Vietnam (65) records a significant climb in ranking due to fully closing its tertiary education enrolment gender gap and an increase in women in parliament. By contrast, Thailand (71) slides in ranking due to a widening of its Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex gender gap and, in particular, a decrease in the number of female legislators, senior officials and managers. It also re-opens a gender gap in the literacy rate. Indonesia (88) balances a widening gender gap for female legislators, senior officials and managers against fully closing the one for professional and technical workers and increased wage equality to achieve a marginal increase in its overall score. China (99) records a small decrease in wage equality and newly available data reveals that it continues to exhibit a gender gap in secondary school enrolment. It remains the world’s lowest-ranked country with regard to the gender gap in its sex ratio at birth. The Index’s updated estimated earned income scale highlights the continued existence of an income gender gap in Brunei Darussalam (103), leading to a decrease in ranking. However, other data updates for the country record some progress on closing the Political Empowerment subindex gender gap for the first time. Malaysia (106) records progress on closing gender gaps in women’s labour force participation and estimated earned income, and it fully closes the secondary school enrolment gap this year, leading to a rank and score increase. Cambodia (112) experiences a reversal in last year’s progress on closing its Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex gender gap, with a decline in women’s labour force participation and estimated earned income.
The Index’s updated estimated earned income scale highlights the continued existence of an income gender gap in Japan (111) and Korea, Rep. (116). However, this is not the only factor affecting the two countries’ performances this year. Japan records a significant widening of the gender gap for professional and technical workers, adversely affecting its ranking despite further progress in reducing the gender gap in tertiary education enrolment and women’s representation among legislators, senior officials and managers, and in improving wage equality for similar work. Korea, Rep., meanwhile, records a large improvement on its gender gap in professional and technical workers, and across the Political Empowerment subindex, almost completely offsetting a decrease in women’s share of estimated earned income and worsening perceptions of wage equality for similar work by the country’s business community.
Timor-Leste (125) re-enters the Global Gender Gap Index for the first time since 2012 and scores at the bottom of the East Asia and the Pacific region. The country has closed the gender gap in primary and secondary education and performs comparatively well on its share of female members of parliament. However, a significant gender gap remains on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex and in its sex ratio at birth.
Eastern Europe and Central Asia
With an average remaining gender gap of 30%, the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region scores in the upper middle of the range of the Global Gender Gap Index, practically tied with the Latin America and Caribbean region. Slovenia, Latvia and Estonia, the top-ranked countries in the region, have closed 79%, 75% and 75% of their overall gender gaps, respectively, while the three lowest-ranked countries—Slovak Republic, Hungary and Armenia—have closed between 68% to 67% of their overall gender gap. Out of the 26 countries in the region, one country—Latvia—has fully closed both its Educational Attainment and Health and Survival gender gaps, while another three countries have fully closed their Educational Attainment gender gaps and another five are on the verge of doing so. Two other countries from the region have fully closed their Health and Survival gender gap; however, three others—Azerbaijan, Albania and Armenia—are among the 10 lowest-performing countries in the entire Index on this subindex.
Out of the 26 countries from the region covered by the Index this year, 13 countries have increased their overall score compared to last year, while 12 have decreased their overall scores. One new country joined the Index this year.
Slovenia (8) is the region’s top performer and manages to defend its ranking in the global top ten for the second year running, having been one of the fastest-improving countries over the past decade. This year, progress has come particularly from an increase in wage equality for similar work. Similarly, the Baltic states—Latvia (18), Estonia (22) and Lithuania (25)—continue to make progress on closing their gender gaps, with improvements particularly in female representation in politics and among legislators, senior officials and managers. However, after a significant increase last year, Estonia records a reversal on the latter indicator as well as a slight decline in overall female labour force participation and estimated earned income, leading to a decrease on its Economic Participation and Opportunity score.
Moldova (26) maintains last year’s ranking and is followed by Belarus (30), which has made progress on closing its income gender gap this year. The country also maintains its strong performance on the number of female legislators, senior officials and managers as well as professional and technical workers, with more than 70% of the latter positions occupied by women. Poland (38) sees strong improvements in closing its income gender gap and improving wage equality and women parliamentarians, resulting in a significant increase in rank this year. Both Bulgaria (41) and Serbia (48) have increased wage equality, however, Serbia also sees a widening gender gap for legislators, senior officials and managers. Kazakhstan (51) has widened its Economic Participation and Opportunity gender gap, due to a slight decline in women’s labour force participation and estimated earned income. However, it has also increased women in parliament. Albania (62) climbs several ranks on the back of progress towards closing its gender gap in primary and secondary school enrolment, making up for some of its slow progress on these dimensions over the past decade, while Croatia (68) continues to slide in rank, due to a significant decrease in its number of female members of parliament. Macedonia, FYR (73), meanwhile, records a decrease in female legislators, senior officials and managers, and also re-opens its Educational Attainment gender gap.
Ukraine (69) sees good progress in closing its gender gap for legislators, senior officials and managers; however, this is offset by decreases in women’s estimated earned income and overall labour force participation. Similarly, the Russian Federation (75) maintains its ranking despite small decreases in women’s estimated earned income and wage equality. It remains among the lowest-ranked countries in the region on the Political Empowerment subindex. Romania (76) has widened its gender gap across all dimensions of the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, while the Czech Republic (77) records small improvements across the same subindex. The Kyrgyz Republic (81), meanwhile, sees a large increase in its share of women legislators, senior officials and managers, but this progress is cancelled out by widening gender gaps in labour force participation, estimated earned income, and women parliamentarians, leading to a decrease in overall ranking.
Bosnia and Herzegovina (83) enters the Global Gender Gap Index for the first time, with closed primary, secondary and tertiary education gender gaps as well as scores above the Eastern Europe and Central Asia regional average on the Political Empowerment subindex. However, its gender gap in Economic Participation and Opportunity remains wide.
Azerbaijan (86) has achieved a significant improvement in its ranking due to a narrowing gender gap in earned income; wage equality; legislators, senior officials and managers; and women parliamentarians. However, it remains among the lowest-ranked countries in the world on the Health and Survival subindex. By contrast, rankings for both Montenegro (89) and Georgia (90) have slid due to a widening Economic Participation and Opportunity gender gap.
The Eastern Europe and Central Asia regional table is completed by Tajikistan (93), Slovak Republic (94), Armenia (102) and Hungary (101)—all but the last of which see small improvements in their rankings this year. Notable improvements include a narrowing of the tertiary enrolment gender gap in Tajikistan and of the estimated earned income gender gap in Armenia. However, Armenia still records the second-lowest female-to-male sex ratio at birth in the world, just above China’s, while Hungary continues to be the region’s lowest-performing country with regard to closing the Political Empowerment gender gap.
Latin America and the Caribbean
With an average remaining gender gap of 30%, the Latin America and Caribbean region scores in the upper middle of the range of the Global Gender Gap Index, nearly tied with the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region. The region is home to three of the top ten fastest-improving countries in the world since 2006: Nicaragua and Bolivia—which lead the regional rankings—and Ecuador, while the lowest-performing countries in the region are the Dominican Republic, Belize and Guatemala. Six countries in the region have fully closed both their Educational Attainment and Health and Survival gender gaps, the only region with this distinction.
Of the 25 countries covered by the Index in the region this year, 17 have improved their overall score compared to last year, while eight have regressed.
Nicaragua (10) regains its place in the global top ten and remains the best performer in the region for the fifth year in a row. It has fully closed its gender gap on Educational Attainment and Health and Survival, and is the highest ranking country in the region on Political Empowerment, with more than 50% of the gender gap now closed. Bolivia (23) records a slight decline in female labour force participation, but has reached parity in the number of women in parliament and has fully closed its Health and Survival gender gap. However, it is the second worst-performing country in the region on the Educational Attainment subindex. Costa Rica (32) continues to improve on Economic Participation and Opportunity. Its Educational Attainment gender gap has remained fully closed since 2011, and it ranks in the world’s top 20 for Political Empowerment, with more than 36% of its gender gap now closed. Cuba (27) continues to rank among the lowest countries in the region on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex. However, it has fully closed its gender gap in Educational Attainment.
Barbados (28) remains among the best-performing countries in the region and the world on closing the Economic Opportunity gender gap, achieving parity at the level of female legislators, senior officials and managers. It continues to take the top rank among the Caribbean nations, followed by the Bahamas (37) and Trinidad and Tobago (44), which share similar profiles. Jamaica (42) continues to improve on Political Empowerment, with an increased share of women in parliament.
Argentina’s (33) gender gap on Health and Survival remains fully closed and the country continues to rank among the region’s top performers on the Political Empowerment subindex. However, despite solid performance on education, the country does not leverage its female talent well, ranking 101st on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex. Colombia (39) improves on Economic Participation and Opportunity due to an increase in women’s labour force participation and estimated earned income, with parity at the level of legislators, senior officials and managers. Ecuador (40) continues to experience a reversal on its Economic Participation and Opportunity gender gap, with setbacks across all categories except professional and technical workers, where it has reached parity. Its gender gap on Health and Survival remains fully closed.
Panama (47) and El Salvador (64) rank in the middle of the region, with, respectively, a slight increase and a slight decrease on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex. Both countries have achieved gender parity on the Health and Survival subindex. Mexico (66) sees a decrease in the female share of professional and technical workers and remains among the lowest-performing countries in the region on this indicator. It maintains a stable performance across most other indicators. Chile (70) continues to make progress on Economic Participation and Opportunity due to increases in female labour force participation and the share of female professional and technical workers. However, it continues to rank among the region’s bottom three on this subindex. Continued improvement in the political participation of women is reflected in one more year of having a female head of state. Venezuela (74) records a decrease in women parliamentarians, while Peru (80) sees an increase. However, Peru remains the country with the widest health and survival gender gap in the region. Honduras (78) records improvements in women’s labour force participation and its gender gap on Educational Attainment remains fully closed. Brazil’s (79) improvements, due to a number of years with a female head of state, are counter-balanced by a larger labour force participation gender gap and the re-opening of its gender gap in Educational Attainment for the first time in five years. Uruguay (91) sees some progress on Educational Attainment but the gender gap remains open.
The bottom ranks of the region are made up of Suriname (95), Belize (98), Dominican Republic (97) and Paraguay (96), which overtakes Guatemala (105) due to improvements to its labour force participation gender gap and the number of female legislators, senior officials and managers. However, it remains the second-lowest performing country in the region on the Political Empowerment subindex.
Middle East and North Africa
For the first time, the Middle East and North Africa region has closed more than 60% of the overall gender gap. However, the region continues to rank last globally on the overall Index, behind South Asia. On Educational Attainment, it ranks ahead of Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, and on Health and Survival it surpasses East Asia and the Pacific, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Still, no country from the region has fully closed its gender gap on either subindex, although Turkey—on Health and Survival—and the United Arab Emirates—on Educational Attainment—come close. In addition to Israel, with a remaining overall gender gap of 28%, the region’s best-performing countries this year are Qatar, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates, each having closed approximately 64% of their gender gap. The lower end of the regional table is made up of Syria and Yemen, having closed 57% and 52% of their gender gap, respectively. The Index’s revised estimated earned income scale reveals that in the region’s high-income countries, as elsewhere, additional efforts will still be required to fully close the gender gap in income. In addition, the Middle East and North Africa continues to lag on the Political Empowerment subindex, with only 9% of the gender gap closed and four out of the world’s five lowest-ranking countries on this subindex belonging to this region.
Out of the 18 countries covered by the Index in the region this year, 10 countries have improved their overall score compared to last year, while eight have regressed.
Israel (49) remains the top performer in the region, recording improvements on perceptions of wage equality, female labour force participation and in the share of women in parliament. It is followed by Qatar (119), which records a narrowing in its labour participation gender gap this year. Algeria (120) climbs several ranks and sees progress on wage equality, estimated earned income, and labour force participation. It also fully closes its secondary education gender gap. The United Arab Emirates (124) sees improvement on women parliamentarians and wage equality, and comes very close to fully closing its gender gap on the Educational Attainment subindex. However, the Index’s updated estimated earned income scale highlights the continued existence of an income gender gap in the country. The next-ranked country is Tunisia (126), which scores above the regional average across all subindexes but sees a slight widening in the gender gap in literacy this year. It has shown the region’s strongest improvement on the Health and Survival subindex over the past decade. Kuwait (128) sees solid progress on women’s labour force participation. However, the Index’s updated estimated earned income scale reveals the full extent of the remaining income gender gap in the country, which is further accentuated by declining perceptions of wage equality among its business community, leading to a decline in ranking.
Elsewhere in the broader Middle East and North Africa region, Mauritania (129) has experienced an increase in women’s labour force participation and estimated earned income as well as a narrowing of its secondary and tertiary education gender gaps. Turkey (130), meanwhile, records progress on closing the gender gap in estimated earned income and for professional and technical workers. However, its gender gap widens for wage equality and female members of parliament. Bahrain (131) sees a decline in its share of female professional and technical workers as well as a larger-than-before income gender gap due to the Index’s revised scale for calculating estimated earned income. On the positive side, it records an increase in female legislators, senior officials, and managers and it fully closes the secondary education enrolment gender gap, although this progress is not enough to halt a decrease in rank this year due to the collective impact of the above factors on the country’s Economic Participation and Opportunity score. Egypt (132) achieves a narrowing of the gender gap on a number of indicators this year, including wage equality, professional and technical workers, literacy, and women in parliament. It also fully closes its primary and secondary enrolment gender gaps, despite also seeing a stagnating female labour force participation rate and slight deterioration in women’s share of estimated earned income.
Next-ranked are Oman (133), Jordan (134), Lebanon (135) and Morocco (137), all of which report progress on narrowing their overall gender gaps this year, with increased wage equality across the business community in each of the four countries. However, Oman also re-opens its primary and secondary education enrolment gender gaps.
Iran, Islamic Rep. (139) has narrowed the gender gap for legislators, senior officials and managers as well as women parliamentarians, from a low base. It has also fully closed its gender gap in primary and secondary education. However, it regresses on wage equality, professional and technical workers as well as the tertiary enrolment gender gap.
Saudi Arabia (141) sees a widening gender gap across the entire Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, particularly with regard to the Index’s updated estimate of the scale of the gap in earned income. Saudi Arabia also re-opens its primary, secondary and tertiary education enrolment gender gap this year. More positively, it has recorded the region’s largest improvement on the overall Index over the past decade, as well as the second-largest improvement on Economic Participation and Opportunity globally. On Educational Attainment, it is the fifth-most improved country in the world.
The Middle East and North Africa regional ranking is completed by Syria (142) and YEM (144), which both score in the global bottom three—nearly unchanged from last year—with a low-performing ranking on Economic Participation and Opportunity, in particular.
With a remaining gender gap of 28%, North America is the region that has made the second-most progress towards gender parity overall. However, while both countries in the region have closed more than 70% of their overall gender gap, they have also seen their overall score decrease compared to last year. Further, neither has fully closed its gender gap on the Health and Survival subindex. The Index’s revised estimated earned income scale also reveals that both countries are still recording significant gender gaps in income.
Canada (35) takes the top spot in the region, despite recording a drop in female legislators, senior officials and managers. Nevertheless, improvements have been made on Political Empowerment, with more women in parliament. The changes to the cabinet are not yet reflected in globally comparable data sources although they would clearly boost Canada’s ranking. Its gender gap in Educational Attainment has remained fully closed since 2013.
The United States (45) sees a drop in its ranking due to a decrease on its Economic Participation and Opportunity score. This is partly due to a revised estimate of the size of the gender gap in estimated earned income; however, women’s labour force participation has also declined over the past year, and is stagnating among legislators, senior officials and managers. More positively, the United States has reached gender parity in education, highlighting the large latent talent pool in the country’s adult female population.
With an average remaining gender gap of 33%, the South Asia region is the second-lowest scoring on this year’s Global Gender Gap Index, ahead of the Middle East and North Africa and behind the Sub-Saharan Africa region. Bangladesh and India are the top-ranked countries in the region, having closed just under 70% and 68% of their overall gender gap, respectively, while the lowest-ranked countries are Bhutan and Pakistan, having closed 64% and 56% of their overall gender gap, respectively. No country in the region has fully closed its Educational Attainment gender gap, and only one country, Sri Lanka, has fully closed its Health and Survival gender gap. However, the region is also home to one of the top five climbers over the past decade on the overall Index and on Educational Attainment: Nepal.
Of the seven countries from the region included in the Index this year, two countries have increased their overall score compared to last year, while five have seen it decreasing.
Bangladesh (72) is the region’s top performer, recording progress this year on the Political Empowerment gender gap but a widening of the gap on women’s labour force participation and estimated earned income. It is followed by India (87), which reports progress this year on closing the gender gap with regard to wage equality and across all indicators of the Educational Attainment subindex, fully closing its primary and secondary education enrolment gender gaps. However, it also sees some regression on women’s estimated earned income and continues to rank third-lowest in the world on Health and Survival, remaining the world’s least-improved country on this subindex over the past decade. The next-ranked countries are Sri Lanka (100)—which has widened its Economic Participation and Opportunity gender gap, particularly with regard to women’s labour force participation, estimated earned income and wage equality, despite a small increase in female parliamentarians—and Nepal (110), which retains last year’s ranking, with small improvements on the Political Empowerment subindex, as well as on literacy and wage equality.
The Maldives (115) re-opens its gender gap in primary education enrolment and shows a small increase in women’s estimated earned income. Bhutan (121) sees a widening gender gap in female labour force participation, estimated earned income and wage equality, partly balanced out by an increase in the number of female professional and technical workers and a smaller gender gap in literacy. Its Heath and Survival and Political Empowerment scores remain the same as last year. Pakistan (143) remains the region’s lowest-ranked country and second-to-last ranked overall. It records progress on closing the secondary education enrolment gender gap, and on women’s estimated earned income, but this is partly offset by reversals on wage equality and female-to-male literacy ratios.
With an average remaining gender gap of 32%, the Sub-Saharan Africa region scores in the lower middle range of the Global Gender Gap Index, ahead of South Asia and behind Eastern Europe and Central Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. It displays a wider range of gender gap outcomes than practically any other region: one top ten country, Rwanda; three countries, Burundi, Namibia and South Africa, that score in the top 20 and have closed 76% to 77% of their gender gaps; as well as many of the lowest-ranked countries in the Index, such as Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Chad, who have not yet closed 60% of their overall gender gap. This high variance is explained by high diversity on the Educational Attainment subindex—much higher than for any other region—as well as uneven Health and Survival outcomes. Only one country from the region, Lesotho, has fully closed both its Educational Attainment and Health and Survival gender gaps. Botswana has fully closed its Educational Attainment gender gap and six others—Angola, Mauritius, Namibia, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe—have fully closed their Health and Survival gender gaps.
Globally, Sub-Saharan Africa continues to rank last on the Educational Attainment subindex: Whereas 16 countries from the region have fully closed their gender gap for primary education, only 11 have closed it for secondary education and seven for tertiary education. Eight of the 10 lowest-ranked countries on the literacy rate indicator are from the region. On Health and Survival, the region has improved more than any other over the past decade. The region is characterized by high female labour force participation—with 11 countries from Sub-Saharan Africa in the global top 20 on this indicator and Mozambique, Malawi, Rwanda and Burundi demonstrating a higher representation of women in the labour force than men—translating into a high regional average on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex. Must of this participation however is low-skilled and the region must make higher investments in education.
Of the 30 countries from the region covered by the Index this year, 19 countries have increased their overall score compared to last year, while 11 have seen it decreasing.
Rwanda (5) continues to be the region’s top performer, and the only country from the region ranked in the global top ten, marking progress this year in closing the gender gap on tertiary enrolment and estimated earned income while slipping on the more basic literacy rate gender gap. On the Political Empowerment subindex, Rwanda maintains its place in the global top ten as one of only two countries worldwide that have more women in parliament than men. Burundi (12) sees a big improvement in its score this year—breaking back into the top 20 with its highest-ever recorded ranking—due to progress in nearly closing its primary and secondary education enrolment gender gaps, albeit from a low base, as well as to increases in wage equality. It is joined in the global Index top 20 by Namibia (14) and South Africa (15), both of which climb this year due to progress in closing their gender gaps in women’s labour force participation and estimated earned income, as well as to improvements on the Political Empowerment subindex. However, both countries record a decrease in wage equality. Mozambique (21) improves several ranks and almost enters the top 20, with progress in women’s estimated earned income and wage equality, and a narrowing gender gap in secondary and tertiary education enrolment.
The next-ranked country in the region is Cape Verde (36), which likewise climbs several ranks and sees improvement in women in parliament, wage equality and estimated earned income, in particular. It is then followed by a cluster of countries that score in the middle range of the region—and of the Index overall: Tanzania (53), Botswana (54), Zimbabwe (56), Lesotho (57), Ghana (59), Madagascar (60), Uganda (61), Kenya (63) and Malawi (67). This year, widening and narrowing gender gaps in this field are concentrated on a few areas: women’s estimated earned income—decreasing in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Malawi but improving in Botswana—wage equality—improving in Botswana and Kenya but slipping in Ghana and Madagascar—and women’s share of legislators, senior officials, and managers as well as professional and technical workers, which have increased in Zimbabwe and Madagascar. Most countries in this group also record steady improvements on the Educational Attainment subindex.
The next regional cluster of countries includes a number of West African nations, including Senegal (82), Cameroon (85) and The Gambia (104). They are followed by Swaziland (107) and Ethiopia (109), which this year climbs several ranks on the back of progress in closing its gender gap in secondary and tertiary education enrolment. Next-ranked are Mauritius (113), Liberia (114) and Angola (117).
Nigeria (118) advances several ranks and manages to narrow its gender gaps in secondary education enrolment and wage equality. A further cluster of West African countries follows: Burkina Faso (123), Benin (127), Côte d’Ivoire (136) and Mali (138). The Sub-Saharan Africa region is completed by bottom-ranked Chad (140), which this year climbs two ranks on the back of progress towards closing its secondary education enrolment gap.
With an average remaining gender gap of 25%, Western Europe is the highest-performing region in the Index this year. However, it is also one of the regions with the widest performance variation, seeing progress stall or even reverse across a range of dimensions this year. Western Europe is home to four of the top five countries in the Index—Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden—demonstrating the continued progress of the Nordic countries in closing their overall gender gaps. At the bottom ranks of the region, three countries have a remaining gender gap of more than 30%: Cyprus, Greece and Malta. Finland and France are the only two countries in the region to have fully closed both their Educational Attainment and Health and Survival gender gaps.
Of the 20 countries in the region covered by the Index this year, only two have improved their overall score over last year, while 18 have seen it decrease.
Iceland (1), Finland (2), Norway (3) and Sweden (4) defend their top positions in the Index on the back of their world-leading positions on the Political Empowerment subindex and continued strong performance on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex. However, the Index’s revised estimated earned income scale reveals that in the Nordic countries, as elsewhere, additional efforts will be required to fully close the gender gap in income. Ireland (6) maintains its global top position, building on its strengths in political representation. Switzerland (11) likewise continues to make progress on Political Empowerment, with more women in parliament, although its progress this year has not kept pace with that of the region’s other top performers on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, placing the country just outside the overall top ten.
Similar to other high-income countries in the region, the Index’s updated estimated earned income scale reveals that Germany (13) is yet to fully close its gender gap in income, leading to a slight decline on its Economic Participation and Opportunity score. Its gender gap in Educational Attainment remains open and the country ranks among the bottom two of the region in this category. Further improvements have been made on Political Empowerment and it now ranks in the global top ten on this subindex. France (17) improves on labour force participation and female professional and technical workers. It is one of two countries in the region to have fully closed its gender gap on the Educational Attainment and Health and Survival subindexes. The Netherlands (16) and Denmark (19) have seen their progress stall on women’s labour force participation and estimated earned income. Regarding Educational Attainment, the gender gap re-opens in the Netherlands while it remains fully closed in Denmark. The United Kingdom (20) completes this year’s global top 20, with an overall slight decline in female legislators, senior officials and managers as well as professional and technical workers.
Belgium (24), Luxembourg (34), Spain (29) and Portugal (31) rank in the middle of the Western Europe region, with a decline in women parliamentarians in the former and an increase in the latter. Austria (52) and Italy (50) see a drop in their share of female professional and technical workers, with less than 57% of that gap now closed in Italy. The Western Europe regional table is completed by Greece (92), Malta (108), and Cyprus (84), which this year sees solid improvements across women’s labour force participation and its share of female legislators, senior officials and managers. While Cyprus has also improved its share of female members of parliament, the country remains the lowest-performing in the region on this indicator, with just over 10% of its gender gap now closed.
Progress over time
With the economic and business case for gender parity becoming ever clearer, there is an urgent need for reliable metrics to capture the progress achieved over time. Since 2006, the Global Gender Gap Report has served as just such a global benchmark for tracking progress in closing gender gaps. Each year, the rate of change helps predict the projected time to closing the divide between women and men’s parity in employment, education, health and politics.
All things held equal, with current trends, the overall global gender gap can be closed in 83 years across the 107 countries covered since the inception of the Report—just within the statistical lifetime of baby girls born today. However, the most challenging gender gaps remain in the economic sphere and in health. At the current rate of change, and given the widening economic gender gap since last year, it will not be closed for another 170 years. The economic gender gap this year has reverted back to where it stood in 2008, after a peak in 2013. On the other hand, on current trends, the education–specific gender gap could be reduced to parity within the next 10 years. The currently widest gender gap, in the political dimension, is also the one exhibiting the most progress, narrowing by 9% since 2006. On current trends, it could be closed within 82 years. The time to close the health gender gap remains undefined. Formally the smallest gap, it has oscillated in size with a general downward trend. Today, the gap is larger than it stood in 2006, in part due to specific issues in select countries, in particular China and India.
Some regions should expect to see their gender gaps narrow faster than the global rate of change. Among these are South Asia, with a projected closing of the gender gap in 46 years, Western Europe in 61 years, Latin America in 72 years and Sub-Saharan Africa, due to achieve parity in 79 years. Projections for other world regions suggest closing their gaps will take longer than 100 years, namely 129 years in the Middle East and North Africa, 146 years in East Asia and the Pacific, and 149 years in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Given the slow progress over the last decade, the gender gap in North America is expected to close in 158 years. None of these forecasts are foregone conclusions. Instead they reflect the current state of progress and serve as a call to action to policymakers and other stakeholders to accelerate gender equality.
Gender gaps and income
Table 6 displays country rankings by income group (Table A2 in Appendix A details the income group categories used). In 2016, the best-performing high-income group countries are once again the Nordics—Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden—which are also the overall leaders of the Index, while Bahrain, Oman and Saudi Arabia are the lowest-performing countries in this income group. Among the upper-middle income group, Namibia, South Africa and Cuba lead the way, whereas Jordan, Lebanon and Iran, Islamic Rep. are the bottom performers. In the lower-middle income group, the Philippines, Nicaragua and Bolivia take the top spots while the lower end of the group is made up of Syria, Pakistan and Yemen. Finally, the low-income group—consisting mostly of Sub-Saharan African economies—is dominated by Rwanda, Burundi and Mozambique, with Benin, Mali and Chad comprising the lower ranks.
The bottom part of Figure 4 shows the range of scores for the overall Global Gender Gap Index by income group. Population-weighted group averages are indicated by a blue diamond. High-income countries have the highest average score (72%), followed by low-income countries (68%), upper-middle income countries (68%) and, finally, lower-middle income countries (67%). However, as revealed in Figure 4, there is a wide variety of gender gap outcomes across every income group.
In 2016, out of the 49 countries in the high-income group covered by the Index, four have closed more than 80% of their overall gender gap, 28 have closed between 70% and 80% of their gender gap, 16 have closed between 60% and 70%, and one country is yet to cross the 60% threshold. Among the 41 countries in the upper-middle income group, 16 have closed between 70% and 80% of their gender gap, 23 have closed between 60% and 70%, with two countries having closed less than 60%. In the lower-middle income group, out of 36 countries, 13 have closed between 70% and 80% of their gender gap, 18 have closed between 60% and 70%, and five countries have not yet reached 60%. Finally, among the low-income group, out of 18 countries, one has crossed the 80% threshold, seven have closed between 70% and 80% of their gender gap, eight have closed between 60% and 70%, and two countries are yet to close 60% of their gender gap or more.
While the above does suggest a relationship between gender parity and gross national income—with a growing body of research and evidence strongly suggesting that gender parity can become a key driver of prosperity and national income growth (see Figure 6)—the Index finds little evidence that a high GNI is in any way a prerequisite to making progress on gender parity. Appendix B illustrates the spread of data for female and male values for all 14 indicators used in the Index in 2016 in a single visualization. Appendix C contains detailed data tables, in rank order, for all 14 indicators included in the Index for all countries for which data was available in 2016.
The case for gender parity
There is a clear values-based case for promoting gender parity: women are one-half of the world’s population and evidently deserve equal access to health, education, economic participation and earning potential, and political decision-making power. However, it is pertinent to note that gender parity is equally fundamental to whether and how societies thrive. Ensuring the healthy development and appropriate use of half of the world’s total talent pool has a vast bearing on the growth, competitiveness and future-readiness of economies and businesses worldwide.
A variety of models and empirical studies have suggested that improving gender parity may result in significant economic dividends, which vary depending on the situation of different economies and the specific challenges they are facing. Notable recent estimates suggest that economic gender parity could add an additional US$240 billion to the GDP of the United Kingdom, US$1,201 billion to that of the United States, US$526 billion to Japan’s, and US$285 billion to the GDP of Germany.9 Another recent estimate suggests that China could see a US$2.5 trillion GDP increase by 2020, and North America and Oceania could gain an additional US$3.1 trillion over the same period if they closed their gender gaps.10
A number of recent studies also indicate that a reduction in the employment gender gap has been an important driver of European economic growth over the past decade, and has the potential to unleash even further growth. Conversely, limiting women’s access to labour markets is costly, as poor female labour force participation hampers economic growth.11 As a region, East Asia and the Pacific reportedly loses between US$42 billion to US$47 billion annually due to women’s limited access to employment opportunities.12 Research by the World Bank demonstrates that similar restrictions have also imposed sizable costs throughout the Middle East and North Africa13 as well as the Sub-Saharan Africa region.14
This evident relationship between economic outcomes and gender parity and, in particular, the growing evidence of the positive effect of increasing gender parity on economic growth, is illustrated in Figure 6 (page 26) on the basis of the Global Gender Gap Index. The method of calculating the Global Gender Gap Index is unique in eliminating the direct impact of absolute levels of any of its constituent variables so that, as a result, any relationship to relative wealth of any of the economies covered by the Index is endogenous to the dynamics of closing the global gender gap.
As detailed in the previous section of the Report, the Global Gender Gap Index takes into account four critical dimensions when measuring the gaps between women and men’s access to resources and opportunities: economic participation, education, health and politics. Across these four different dimensions we see a number of positive interdependencies, knock-on and multiplier effects that highlight the multi-faceted nature of the benefits of increased gender parity.
For example, increased gender parity in education lowers infant and child mortality rates, lowers maternal mortality rates, increases labour force participation rates and earnings, and fosters further educational investment in children. The World Bank finds, based on a sample of a wide range of developing countries, that investing in girls so that they would complete education at the same rate as boys would lead to lifetime earnings increases of today’s cohort of girls of between 54% to 68% of countries’ GDP, equivalent to an increase in annual GDP growth rates of about 1.5%.15 Conversely, girls’ exclusion from education considerably hinders the productive potential of an economy and its overall development. In the East Asia and the Pacific region, specifically, it has been estimated that between US$16 billion to US$30 billion is lost annually as a result of gender gaps in education.16 Similar to education, investing in health—and specifically in maternal, newborn and child health—has a significant multiplier effect.17
In the political sphere, women’s engagement in public life has a positive impact on inequality across society at large. The issues which women advocate, prioritize and invest in have broad societal implications, touching on family life, education and health. Women’s engagement in public life fosters greater credibility in institutions, and heightened democratic outcomes.18 In addition, there is a range of evidence to suggest that women’s political leadership and wider economic participation are correlated (Figure 7).
Across all countries, making full use of women’s capabilities paves the way to optimizing a nation’s human capital potential. This is evidenced in the strong relationship between the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index and Human Capital Index, presented in Figure 8. Once certain basic elements of human development are in place, countries may initially take a variety of different pathways to further improve and invest in their human capital potential, as demonstrated by the wide range of outcomes in the midfield of Figure 8. However, if such strategies are too focused on just some elements of a country’s population, they miss out on significant positive multiplier effects. Few of the top performers in the Human Capital Index have succeeded in maximizing the development and deployment of their nation’s talent without also narrowing their gender gaps.
Women’s participation in the formal economy, or lack thereof, is also a business issue—costing women, companies and, ultimately, entire economies. Female talent remains one of the most under-utilized business resources, either squandered through lack of progression or untapped from the onset. Business leaders and governments increasingly note that tackling barriers to equality can unlock new opportunities for growth. In the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Survey, 42% of business leaders perceived addressing gender parity in their company as a matter of fairness and equality; yet, in addition, more than a fifth of those surveyed also highlighted rationales closer to their core business: reflecting the changing gender composition of their customer base as well as enhancing corporate decision-making and innovation.
The combined impact of growing gender parity, a new middle class in emerging markets and women’s spending priorities is expected to lead to rising household savings rates and shifting spending patterns, affecting sectors such as food, healthcare, education, childcare, apparel, consumer durables and financial services.19 With women controlling 64% of global household spending and US$30 trillion of consumer spending in 2013—a figure that is predicted to rise by almost a third over the five years leading to 201820—there are large potential benefits for companies with employees who can understand diverse customer bases.
Additionally, the global economy is currently in transition to a Fourth Industrial Revolution.21 In such a highly interconnected and rapidly changing world, diversity is critical to informed corporate decision-making and business innovation.22 When it comes to leadership positions, companies with top quartile representation of women in executive committees have been shown to perform better than companies with no women at the top—by some estimates with as much as a 47% premium on average return on equity.23 Links also exist between having more women directors and corporate sustainability, as well as with economic growth, since more diverse leadership teams can cater to a broader array of stakeholder needs and concerns.24 Unlocking these benefits requires focused action to address the underlying causes of persistent gender gaps in a systemic way.
Gender parity and human capital
The development and deployment of human capital is a critical element of economic growth and social inclusion in all countries. Two of the Global Gender Gap Index’s four subindexes—Educational Attainment and Economic Participation and Opportunity—relate to the development and deployment of female human capital in particular. The World Economic Forum’s Human Capital Index measures a country’s “distance to an ideal” on learning and employment outcomes, for women and men. In Figure 9 we plot the Human Capital Index against a composite measure of educational attainment and economic participation and opportunity from the Global Gender Gap Index. The results show how countries have and have not prioritized gender equality in their quest for optimizing human capital. In the top right are economies that have both high human capital and low gender gaps, indicating an even spread of opportunities. In the top left are countries that have high human capital and large gender gaps. There are few countries in this space—countries cannot have very high human capital if their gender gaps are large because women are one half of the population. In the bottom right are countries where the human capital is low but the gender gaps are small, indicating an even spread of opportunities, even if those opportunities are limited overall. In the bottom left are countries where human capital is low and gender gaps are wide, indicating uneven human capital development across gender lines.
This section of the Report takes a deeper look at key outcomes and contextual factors globally within educational attainment for women and men. It also looks at the key outcomes and contextual factors within economic participation of women and men, examining both paid and unpaid work, and the impact of care and demographics.
Despite some regional variation, globally today, young women and men entering the labour force have almost identical levels of educational qualifications. There is near parity in primary and secondary education, with remaining gender gaps of 1% and 2%, respectively, and parity when it comes to participation in tertiary education. Seen another way, in 62 countries primary education gaps have been closed, in 90 countries secondary education gaps have been closed, and in 95 countries tertiary education gaps have been closed. However, women make up a marginally larger proportion of out-of-school children and a much larger proportion of youth not in school or education (23% compared to 15%).
Among women and men over age 25 and already in the workforce, the educational gender gap with regard to level of qualifications held is larger. Global gender gaps in primary, secondary and tertiary educational attainment stand at 7%, 10% and 6% respectively, in the age 25+ cohort. However, these gaps have narrowed significantly in current enrolment will reflect in the composition of the future workforce. For example, since the rate of enrolment in tertiary education of young women currently surpasses that of young men, each year, an extra 4 million young women graduates are beginning to reverse the tertiary education gap of the previous generation at the global level.
As highlighted by our measure of skill diversity, featured in the Report’s Country Profiles, women graduating from tertiary education courses have acquired a similar range of skills and academic subject knowledge to their male colleagues. However, one area in which women continue to remain under-represented is among STEM graduates, for which the global gender gap stands at 47%, with 30% of male students graduating from STEM subjects, in contrast to 16% of female students. That gap is commonly attributed to negative stereotypes and lack of role models, lowering girls’ performance and aspirations vis-à-vis science and technology.25 It represents a key emerging issue for gender parity, since STEM careers are projected to be some of the most sought-after in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
With every yearly edition, the Report has recorded an increasing number of economies reaching parity in educational enrolment, reflecting major investments in educational gender parity paying off in most parts of the world. Since 2006, countries such as Latvia, Botswana, Nicaragua, Slovak Republic, Costa Rica, Canada, United States and Iceland have fully closed their Educational Attainment gender gaps. However, of the 144 countries in this year’s Index, 17 have remaining education gender gaps wider than 10% and eight record gaps wider than 20%. The list of countries underperforming on this subindex is dominated by those from lower-income groups, indicating specific barriers to evenly educating their populations. Still, some low-income countries outperform their more affluent peers. Notably, Nepal, Zimbabwe and Rwanda have closed more than 90% of their education gender gaps, with Nepal closing a significant 18% in the past 11 years.
Most of the 107 countries covered since the inception of the Report have made strong progress on education. India, Pakistan, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia are among those countries showing strong gains in the 11 years since 2006, with varying starting points. Some of the lowest-ranked countries on this dimension, such as Yemen and Chad, have similarly closed their education gender gaps by 16% and 15%, respectively, over this period, although they continue to lag behind due to their low starting point. In the case of Chad, the country had closed 47% of its education gender gap in 2006 but has now closed almost 60%. The outliers are countries such as Nigeria and Angola which continue to have relatively wide education gender gaps, and have hardly improved for more than a decade.
North America has completely closed its education gender gap. If all things remain equal, Latin America and the Caribbean as well as South Asia are expected to close their education gender gaps in the next five years. Ten years from now, the Middle East and North Africa region should see its education gender gap narrow to a close. East Asia and the Pacific and Sub-Saharan Africa will close their education gender gaps in 21 and 33 years respectively, while Eastern Europe and Central Asia boast a much slower rate of change, projecting the time of education parity to be 87 years. The real concern remains Western Europe, which despite its high performance has seen decline rather than improvement over the past 11 years.
Economic Participation and Opportunity
Globally, 54% of working-age women take part in the in the formal economy, on average, as compared to 81% of men. Women make up a larger proportion of discouraged job seekers and of those outside the labour force; and, on average, women’s unemployment rate is nearly 2% higher globally. Women work three times as often as men as contributing family workers in family enterprises, and are almost twice more likely to work part-time.
Education gains have not always translated into economic gains for women. Even though there is near gender parity in employment for professional and technical workers, reflecting in part the equal education and skills levels among women and men with tertiary education, women hold less than a third of senior roles.
Existing data benchmarking women’s economic leadership roles is uneven in coverage and more should be done to fill existing gaps in knowledge.26 Based on what is currently known, average female representation on boards is 14%, and only in five countries have women broken the 30% participation threshold: Iceland, Norway, France, Latvia and Finland. In addition, only 16 countries have a firm ecosystem in which more than 50% of firms have any female participation in firm ownership. Notable performers include the Philippines, China, Nicaragua, Bahamas, Botswana, Sweden and Brazil.
There also continues to be a persistent wage gap in paid work. Women’s average earnings are almost half those of men, with average global earned income for women and men estimated at $10,778 and $19,873, respectively. Countries that perform well in this dimension of gender parity span all regional and income groups. Slovenia, Norway and Sweden are some of the most gender-equal economies among high-income countries. Botswana and Thailand exhibit the highest income parity among upper-middle income countries. Vietnam, Lao PDR and Ghana have narrowed their income gender gaps the most among the lower-middle income country group. Mozambique, Tanzania and Rwanda lead among the low-income countries, having closed over 80% of their estimated earned income gender gaps. On the other end of the scale, countries such as Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Korea, Rep. have high national income, but income gaps of over 50%.
When it comes to executives’ perceptions of wage equality for similar work, no country has reached parity. In only five countries, the remaining gap is less than 20% while in 88 countries the gap is between 20 and 40%. In 35 countries the gap is between 40 and 50% while in six countries—France, Chile, Peru, Hungary and Brazil—executives see the wage gap for similar work to be below 50%.
Exacerbating economic gender gaps is the degree to which women remain at a disadvantage in the ability to accumulate, inherit and manage wealth. Around 1% of countries retain completely restrictive legislation on using financial services, and an additional 35% have somewhat restrictive legislation in place to regulate women’s access to financial services. A similar proportion has somewhat restrictive legal systems when it comes to the ability to inherit assets; however, the number of countries with highly restricted rights of inheritance is much higher, at 18%. Finally, with regard to women’s access to land and non-land assets, 58% and 45% of countries, respectively, have full gender parity in the eyes of the law, while 40% and 53% have achieved partial gender parity. The unequal access to assets is reflected in the gap between women and men holding a bank account—56% compared to 63%, respectively.
Applying the rate of change of the 107 countries covered by the Index since 2006, there is a mixed picture in countries’ ability to deploy their female human capital. On average, the economic gender gap has been closed by 2% over the 11 eleven years, at an uneven rate of progress, and, at 42% distance from parity globally, it continues to stand at a much lower point than the education gender gap. A number of economies have shown strong improvement; among them, Cameroon, Benin, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Saudi Arabia. No country has yet reached parity on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex. Mirroring gains on the Educational Attainment subindex, to date 68 countries out of the 144 covered by the Index this year have achieved gender parity in skilled roles, i.e., women and men employed as professional and technical workers. A number of countries have also achieved the more elusive goal of reaching gender parity in senior roles, namely Barbados, Columbia, Jamaica and the Philippines.
With the current rates of change across world regions, the closing of the economic gender gap ranges from only 47 to 1951 years. The fastest-closing economic gap is in Western Europe, taking 47 years, closely followed by Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean, which both can expect an approximate 60-year wait for economic gender parity. Slower rates of change are predicted for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at 93 years, as well as East Asia and the Pacific at 111 years. The economic gender gap rates of change that are most concerning remain those in the Middle East and North Africa as well as South Asia, with predictions of 356 and 1951 years, respectively. The lowest-performing region is now North America, where the economic gender gap has increased by 1% since 2006.
Unpaid Work and Care
In many societies, even as women have entered the labour force, they have also retained primary responsibility for unpaid work such as caregiving and household chores. Gender gaps in paid work thus reflect gender gaps in unpaid work, at least in part. This relationship is clearly visible in Figure 10, which plots the gender gap in unpaid work against the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, reflecting the gender gaps in paid work.
On average men do 34% of the unpaid work that women do.27 Research shows that this imbalance starts early, with girls spending 30% more of their time on unpaid work than boys.28 Figure 11 shows the imbalance between paid and unpaid work for both women and men for the thirty countries for which this data is available.
However, the sum total of the time spent by women on work—both paid and unpaid—is higher than for men. Women work on average 50 minutes more a day than men across both paid and unpaid work. Figure 12 shows the minutes spent on paid and unpaid work, for both women and men, revealing the strong gender gaps in distribution and the longer time spent by women on all forms of work, across most economies.
Unpaid work conducted by women varies across countries. The largest proportions of unpaid work are routine housework and caregiving, both childcare and care for older people.29 Housework can look different across different economies, often driven by income levels and access to basic infrastructure. Similarly, specific elements of childcare can vary by geography, ranging from physical care, teaching, reading and playing. Demographics as well as income and societal expectations therefore play a strong role in the division of labour between women and men when it comes to paid and unpaid work. See Appendix E for further information on demographics.
Preparing for the Future
Based on the results of this year’s Index, it is evident that, globally, progress on achieving gender parity in education has been comparatively high, while economic gender parity remains elusive: a remaining gender gap of about 5% compared to a remaining gender gap of 41%, respectively. In addition, progress on the economic gender gap has fluctuated more dramatically. As we see cohort after cohort of highly educated women enter the workforce, if economies are to fully utilize their talent, there needs to be a corresponding narrowing of the economic gender gap to benefit from women’s strong performance on educational qualifications. As highlighted by the Report’s data and an increasing number of studies, disparities in skills and qualifications alone cannot solely account for these differential economic outcomes for women and men.
While many countries are ideally poised to maximize opportunities for women’s participation in the labour market, a large proportion have failed to reap the returns on a pool of highly educated and skilled women. Figure 13 plots the Educational Attainment subindex against the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex. The data reveals four broad groups of countries: (1) countries that have closed or are generally on track to close education gender gaps and show high levels of women’s economic participation; (2) countries that have closed or are generally closing education gender gaps but show low levels of women’s economic participation; (3) countries that have large education gaps as well as large gaps in women’s economic participation; and (4) countries that have large education gaps but display small gaps in women’s economic participation.
In the first broad group are countries that have made investments in women’s education and generally see the returns on this investment in the form of women’s economic and political participation. These countries include the Nordic countries, the United States, but also high-performing lower-income countries such as Botswana and Rwanda.
In the second broad group are countries that have made key investments in women’s education but have generally not removed barriers to women’s participation in the workforce and are thus not seeing returns on their investments in terms of development of one half of their nation’s human capital. This group includes Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Chile and India. These countries have an educated but untapped talent pool and would have much to gain from women’s greater participation in the workforce.
In the third and fourth groups, the most basic investments in girls’ and women’s education still need to be made, and fundamental rights—including legal frameworks around inheritance, reproductive rights and violence—are often inadequate. The third group contains countries such as Yemen and Pakistan that have large education as well as economic gender gaps. The fourth group contains countries such as Chad and Nigeria, which have large education gender gaps but small economic ones, primarily due to high levels of participation by women in low-skilled work. Compared with the third group, women in these countries have greater access to income and decision-making.
As countries seek to prepare their human capital for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, ensuring that women and men receive equal access to education and work opportunities will be a critical element in safeguarding growth and inclusion. Governments have a range of policy options relating to education, employment and care available to them.
For countries where education gaps still persist, investment in girls and women’s education will be critical for human capital development. A substantial body of literature has shown that investing in girls’ education is one of the highest-return investments a developing economy can make—and, for these countries, closing education gender gaps will remain an important factor over time. The provision of universal education is critical to increase opportunities for the wider population to participate in the skilled labour market. In countries where public education is not available, low-income families may favour the education of sons over daughters if they have limited resources and must weigh up opportunity costs to paying for their children’s education.
Gender bias in education systems is also a factor in women’s workforce participation. Where direction towards particular subject choices is gendered, and role models and learning materials reinforce gender stereotypes, girls’ educational achievements and possibilities beyond education are limited. Gendered subject choices in education and training are reflected in labour markets with traditionally ‘male’ and ‘female’ jobs. This gap may have an even stronger impact on income inequality in the future, necessitating action by governments today. For example, many forecasts, including our own, predict that future job growth will lie in job families that currently employ few women, such as computer and mathematical roles as well as architecture and engineering.30 This requires deeper investment in closing the STEM education gender gap to prevent future workforce gender gaps.
Deploying women’s human capital will also require strategic focus from countries. Access to financial services and digital access are critical elements for enhancing women’s labour force participation across all economies. For countries that have already made investments in education, it will be important to track the progress of these skilled cohorts of women and ensure that they are able to leverage their skills in the workforce through a range of fiscal and social policy instruments. For example, reducing the tax burden for secondary earners by replacing family taxation with individual taxation, improves women’s participation in the labour force.31 Legislative structures can help prevent gender-biased discrimination in the workplace. Obligatory and voluntary quotas in public and private entities, targeted subsidies to female businesses, and supervisory bodies monitoring the implementation of national policies are also approaches used successfully around the world. Public-private cooperation to close economic participation gaps presents a promising approach. See Appendix G for further details on the Gender Parity Task Force model developed by the World Economic Forum.
One of the most critical pressure points often relates to the care infrastructure, due to the greater portion of unpaid work performed by women. Stronger care-related policies could therefore enhance women’s economic participation and re-balance care roles in the home. See the Box on Care Policies (page 34) for more information on global care policy approaches.
Finally, preparing for the future may also require a deliberate approach to managing upcoming workforce disruptions that may impact women and men differently. For example, our Future of Jobs Report predicted that the disruptions of the Fourth Industrial Revolution will lead to decline in some of the currently most gender equal job families—art, design, entertainment, media, and office and administrative functions. Strategic focus will therefore be needed, by both governments and businesses, to help avoid a deepening of gender divides through re-skilling and up-skilling that takes gender gaps into account.
Box: Care Policies
There is a growing demand for concerted action across the public and private sectors to learn from existing policies and innovate in order to facilitate women’s integration into the workforce. Care-related policies are one key element. They tend to span three areas: (1) financial arrangements to facilitate care of children, elderly relatives or others through childcare allowances, family benefits and other subsidies; (2) provisions concerning working conditions to facilitate care such as parental leave, career breaks, remote work, flexible hours and reduction of working time; and (3) direct care services: home care services for older people, nursery places for small children and senior care services. The costs and trade-offs associated with such practices are often long-term investments for countries as they generate societal and economic returns. Below we highlight global trends in family leave and childcare support.
Maternity, paternity and parental leave—or any other type of additional shared leave—are closely associated with women’s economic participation in many parts of the world, and are thus an important element of policies aimed at more efficient use of the country’s human capital pool. Parental benefits enabling mothers, fathers or both to take paid or unpaid time off to care for a child following birth can increase women’s participation in the workforce and foster a more equitable division of childrearing.
Maternity leave currently far exceeds paternity leave around the world. On average, globally, both men and women taking paternity, maternity and parental leave are paid more than 90% of their wages. The weight of responsibility for maternity and paternity leave pay is unevenly distributed across government and employers, with employers bearing the brunt of the cost of paternity leave to a higher degree.
More women participate in the labour force in economies with longer fully-paid maternity and parental leave available for mothers. However, these benefits, above a certain threshold, can undermine women’s labour force participation. For example, in economies where the cumulative duration of paid maternity and parental leave available for mothers exceeds two years, female labour force participation is lower.1
Affordable, good-quality childcare is a key enabling factor, allowing women to reconcile professional and family obligations, since women tend to bear the majority of the caregiving responsibilities in most countries. The cost of childcare also has a significant effect on the financial incentive for women in heterosexual couples with children to work.2 Public or subsidized childcare can increase the participation of women in the workforce; countries that provide public childcare have been reported to have more than twice the percentage of women receiving wages than those that do not.3 Similarly, care for older persons is also an important consideration, as women tend to be the primary caregivers for ageing parents.
Investment in the care economy also produces sizeable spillover effects. The International Trade Union Confederation, for example, recently estimated that if 2% of GDP was invested in a country’s care industry, there would be corresponding increases in overall employment ranging from 2.4% to 6.1%, depending on the country.4 This equates to nearly 13 million new jobs in the United States, 3.5 million in Japan, nearly 2 million in Germany, 1.5 million in the United Kingdom, 1 million in Italy, 600,000 in Australia and nearly 120,000 in Denmark.
Childcare assistance varies by economy and spans public day care, private care and homecare. While 58% of economies have public day care assistance with government allowances or subsidies, 18% have no publicly provided services and no subsidies.
1. See Thévenon, Drivers of Female Labour Force Participation in the OECD.
2. See OECD, Neutrality of tax-benefit systems: Definitions and methodology.
3. See World Bank Group, Women, Business, and the Law 2016.
4. See International Trade Union Confederation, Investing in the Care Economy: A Gender Analysis of Employment Stimulus in Seven OECD Countries.
The Global Gender Gap Report 2016 provides a comprehensive overview of the current state of the global gender gap and of efforts and insights to close it. The Index points to potential role models by revealing those countries that—within their region or their income group—are leaders in having divided resources more equitably between women and men than other countries have, regardless of the overall level of resources available. The Report’s detailed Country Profiles not only allow users to understand how close each country has come to the equality benchmark in each of the four dimensions examined by the Index, but also provide a snapshot of the legal and social framework within which these outcomes are produced.
The magnitude of gender gaps in countries around the world is the combined result of various socioeconomic, policy and cultural variables. The Global Gender Gap Index was developed in 2006 partially to address the need for a consistent and comprehensive measure for gender equality that can track a country’s progress over time. The Index does not seek to set priorities for countries but rather to provide a comprehensive set of data and a clear method for tracking gaps on critical indicators so that countries may set priorities within their own economic, political and cultural contexts.
The Report continues to highlight the strong correlation between a country’s gender gap and its economic performance, and summarizes some of the latest research on the case for gender equality. This year, we also introduced a deeper analysis of the relationship between broader human capital development and deployment and gender parity. The Report highlights the message to policy-makers that countries that want to remain competitive and inclusive will need to make gender equality a critical part of their human capital development. In particular, learning between countries and public-private cooperation within countries will be critical elements of closing the gender gap.
We hope that the information contained in the Global Gender Gap Report series will serve as a basis for continued benchmarking by countries on their progress towards gender equality, help support the case for closing gender gaps and encourage further research on policies and practices that are effective at promoting change.
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