Middle East and North Africa
The Middle East and North Africa region continues its progress from last year, with a remaining overall gender gap of less than 40% for a third consecutive year. However, the region continues to rank last globally on the overall Index, behind South Asia. On Economic Participation and Opportunity, it ranks ahead only of South Asia. On Educational Attainment, it ranks ahead of South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, and on Health and Survival it surpasses South Asia and East Asia and the Pacific. Still, across the region only one country has fully closed its gender gap on, respectively, Educational Attainment and Health and Survival. Overall, the performance of countries across the region is somewhat more divergent than in other world regions. 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 Kuwait, having closed 65%, 64% and 63%, respectively, of their overall gender gaps. The lower end of the regional table is made up of Syria, Iraq and Yemen, which have closed 57%, 55% and 50% of their overall gender gaps, respectively.
The difference in gender gap size between the region’s best-performing and lowest-performing countries is a substantial 28% for the Educational Attainment subindex and more than 2% for Health and Survival. Differences in gender parity are similarly high on Economic Participation and Opportunity and on Political Empowerment, with an average 32% and 20% difference, respectively, in gender gap size between the region’s best- and worst-performing countries. Only four of the region’s 19 countries have managed to close at least 50% of their gender gaps on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, whereas a further nine countries have closed between 40% and 50% of their economic gender gap, and another six countries have closed less than 40%. With regard to Political Empowerment, only two countries—Israel and Tunisia—have closed more than 20% of their gender gap, while 11 countries are yet to cross the 10% gender parity threshold. Four out of the world’s five lowest-ranking countries on this subindex belong to the region.
In terms of year-on-year progress, out of the 19 countries from the region covered by the Index this year, 10 have increased their overall scores compared to last year, while seven have decreased their overall scores. One country—Oman—re-enters the Index this year, and another country—Iraq—joins the Index for the first time.
Israel (46) remains the top performer in the region, recording modest improvements on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, driven by an increased share of women legislators, senior officials and managers. It is followed by Tunisia (119), which experiences a widening gender gap in wage equality and healthy life expectancy. Despite this setback, it also has seen the region’s strongest improvement on the Health and Survival subindex over the past decade. The United Arab Emirates (121) sees a reduction of the gap with regard to legislators, senior officials and managers and healthy life expectancy, counterbalanced by a widening gender gap in wage equality.
Kuwait (126) records notable narrowing of gender gaps in professional and technical workers, moving the country up several ranks. However, Kuwait also sees a widening gender gap in healthy life expectancy. The country is followed by Qatar (127), which also improves by several ranks and marks progress on the share of women parliamentarians, rising from no women in parliament to nearly 10% women. It also narrows its gender gap in labour force participation. However, the overall impact of these achievements is tempered by a decline in wage equality and gender parity in estimated earned income, highlighting the country’s continued economic gender gap.
Algeria’s (128) performance remains largely stable, due to a narrowing gender gap in professional and technical workers that is counterbalanced by a widening Health and Survival gender gap. Meanwhile, Turkey (130) sees progress on closing its gender gap in labour force participation as well as professional and technical roles. However, it also experiences a worsening of wage equality for similar work. In addition, it improves its share of women in parliament.
Bahrain (132) records a widening gender gap in estimated earned income for the second year in a row, while simultaneously narrowing its gender gap in professional and technical workers. Similarly, Mauritania (136) experiences a decline in wage equality and a widening gender gap in women in parliament. Egypt (135) continues its steady improvement on the Educational Attainment subindex—due to smaller gender gaps in literacy and tertiary education—as well as progress on gender parity in professional and technical workers. A similar positive trend is observable for Morocco (137), which sees continued progress on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, driven by increased wage equality. It also continues to improve on the Educational Attainment subindex, mostly due to increased gender parity in secondary education.
Another cluster of countries consists of Jordan (138), Oman (139) and Lebanon (140). The overall performances of Jordan and Lebanon remain largely unchanged, despite Lebanon’s minimal progress on the ratio of women in parliament. Oman re-enters the Index this year, with a larger gender gap than previously recorded in 2016, mostly due to a wider gap on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex.
Saudi Arabia (141) marks improvements in wage equality and women’s labour force participation, as well as a smaller gender gap in secondary and tertiary education. Iran, Islamic Rep. (142) likewise maintains steady, modest progress on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex—albeit from a low base—due to an increase in the share of women in professional and technical roles. The Middle East and North Africa regional ranking is completed by Syria (146), Iraq (147) and Yemen (149).