Middle East and North Africa
The Middle East and North Africa region continues its progress from last year—closing more than 60% of its overall gender gap for the second year running. 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 and South Asia. Still, across the region only one country has fully closed its gender gap on, respectively, Educational Attainment and Health and Survival.
In addition to Israel, which maintains a remaining overall gender gap of 28%, the region’s best-performing countries this year are Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, having closed between 65% and 63% of their overall gender gaps. 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 estimated earned income scale, revised last year, highlights that in the region’s high-income countries, as elsewhere, additional efforts will continue to 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 less than 9% of the gender gap closed and four out of the world’s five lowest-ranking countries on this subindex belonging to this region.
Of the 17 countries covered by the Index in the region this year, 11 countries have improved their overall score compared to last year, while six have regressed.
Israel (44) remains the top performer in the region, recording modest improvements on the Political Empowerment subindex this year. It is followed by Tunisia (117), which climbs several spots on the back of greater gender parity in ministerial positions and basic literacy. It also has shown the region’s strongest improvement on the Health and Survival subindex over the past decade. The United Arab Emirates (120) sees notable improvements on gender parity in ministerial positions and wage equality for similar work, and comes close to fully closing its gender gap on the Educational Attainment subindex. Bahrain (126) records a sizeable increase in gender parity in estimated earned income, which is notable also for demonstrating the pertinence of the Index’s updated income scale for fully capturing progress made on this dimension by high-income countries. Algeria (127) moves down several ranks due to a widening Political Empowerment gender gap. On the positive side, the country records improvements on wage equality for similar work and gender parity in healthy life expectancy this year. Kuwait (129) sees notable improvements in gender parity in professional and technical workers as well as healthy life expectancy. However, it also records a decline in wage equality for similar work and women’s share of estimated earned income. It is followed by Qatar (130), which records notable progress on the number of women in legislator, senior official and manager as well as professional and technical roles. It also narrows its gender gap on the Educational Attainment subindex and for healthy life expectancy. However, these positive achievements are outweighed this year by a decline in wage equality for similar work and on the estimated earned income indicator, highlighting the full extent of the nation’s remaining income gender gap.
Meanwhile, Turkey (131) marks progress on closing its gender gap in legislator, senior official and manager positions, in addition to professional and technical roles as well as in enrolment in tertiary, secondary and primary education. However, it also experiences a widening of the Political Empowerment gender gap and re-opens its Health and Survival gender gap for the first time since 2013. Sitting on the geographic edge of the Middle East and North Africa region, Mauritania (132) experiences a decline in wage equality for similar work as well as a decrease in gender parity when it comes to basic literacy. Similarly, Egypt (134) records a notable decline in wage equality for similar work but also an increase in gender parity in tertiary enrolment. Next in the regional rankings are Jordan (135), Morocco (136) and Lebanon (137)—all of which have made progress on closing their gender gap in labour force participation, but also see a widening gender gap on the Political Empowerment subindex.
Saudi Arabia (138) re-closes its gender gap in enrolment in primary education and sees some progress in gender parity for professional and technical workers. However, it also experiences a modest decline in wage equality for similar work and women’s share of estimated earned income. It has recorded the region’s largest improvement on the overall Index over the past decade, as well as the second-largest relative improvement globally on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex. On Educational Attainment, it is the fifth-most improved country in the world. Iran, Islamic Rep. (140) reverses some of its recent progress on the Educational Attainment and Health and Survival gender gaps but maintains stable, modest progress on the Economic Participation and Opportunity and Political Empowerment subindexes—albeit from a low base. The Middle East and North Africa regional ranking is completed by Syria (142) and Yemen (144). Both score in the global bottom three—which is unchanged from previous years—and have low-performing ranks on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, in particular.