Since 2006 the Global Gender Gap Index has been measuring the extent of gender-based gaps among four key dimensions (Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment) and tracking progress towards closing these gaps over time. This year’s edition of the report benchmarks 153 countries and provides country rankings that allow for effective comparisons across and within regional peers. The methodology and quantitative analysis behind the rankings are intended to serve as a basis for designing effective measures for reducing gender gaps. 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.
The 2020 report’s findings are:
- Globally, the average (population-weighted) distance completed to parity is at 68.6%, which is a further improvement since last edition. To date, there is still a 31.4% average gender gap that remains to be closed globally. The positive increase in the average global score translates into several countries advancing towards gender parity (although often at a slow pace): 101 of the 149 countries covered both this year and last year have increased their scores.
- Across the four subindexes, on average, the largest gender disparity is—once again—the Political Empowerment gap. Despite being the most improved dimension this year (driving the overall positive performance) only 24.7% of the global Political Empowerment gap has been closed in 2020. The second-largest gap is on Economic Participation and Opportunity; 57.8% of this gap has been closed so far, which represents a slight step back since last year. Progress towards closing the Educational Attainment and Health and Survival gaps is more advanced: 96.1% and 95.7%, respectively, of these gaps have been closed to date, both marginally improved since last year.
- With regard to the Political Empowerment subindex, 108 countries of the 149 covered in both current and last year’s editions have improved their overall scores, driven mainly by a significant increase in the number of women in parliaments compared to the last assessment. Notably, in some countries such as Latvia, Spain and Thailand the number of women in parliament has increased substantially. Nonetheless, to date only 25% of these 35,127 global seats are occupied by women and only 21% of the 3,343 ministers are women; and in some countries, women are not represented at all. In addition, over the past 50 years, in 85 of the 153 countries covered by this report there has never been a female head of state.
- In parallel to improving representation of women among political leaders, the number of women in senior roles within the Economic Participation and Opportunity dimension has also increased. Globally, 36% of senior private sector’s managers and public sector’s officials are women (about 2% higher than the figure reported last year). Despite this progress, the gap to close on this aspect remains substantial as only a handful of countries are approaching parity.
- In contrast to the slow but positive progress in terms of leadership positions, women’s participation in the labour market is stalling and financial disparities are slightly larger (on average), explaining the step back registered by the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex this year. On average, only 55% of adult women are in the labour market, versus 78% of men, while over 40% of the wage gap (the ratio of the wage of a woman to that of a man in a similar position) and over 50% of the income gap (the ratio of the total wage and non-wage income of women to that of men) are still to be bridged. Further, in many countries, women are significantly disadvantaged in accessing credit, land or financial products, which prevents opportunities for them to start a company or make a living by managing assets.
- Educational Attainment gaps are relatively small on average but there are still countries where investment in women’s talent is insufficient. While in 35 countries gender parity in education has been achieved, a few developing countries have yet to close over 20% of the gaps. Ten percent of girls aged 15–24 in the world are illiterate, with a high concentration in developing countries. Further, in these countries, education attainment is low for both girls and boys, which calls for greater investment to develop human capital in general. Even in countries where education attainment is relatively high, women’s skills are not always in line with those required to succeed in the professions of the future. In addition, they encounter barriers to employment in the most dynamic and in-demand occupations. Based on data from the LinkedIn platform, women are under-represented in six of the eight micro-clusters with the highest employment growth rate (people and culture, content production, marketing, sales, specialized project managers, data and AI, engineering and cloud computing). Further, comparing where women are currently employed with the skills they possess, it turns out that there are some occupations where women are under-utilized even if they have the needed skills. Women could further contribute to many of them—including some high-tech and managerial roles—if current barriers could be addressed.
- Projecting current trends into the future, the overall global gender gap will close in 99.5 years, on average, across the 107 countries covered continuously since the first edition of the report. Lack of progress in closing the Economic Participation and Opportunity gap leads to an extension of the time it will be needed to close this gap. At the slow speed experienced over the period 2006–2020, it will take 257 years to close this gap. The second area where gender gaps will take longest to close is Political Empowerment. This year’s evolution speeds up the pace of progress towards parity, yet it will still take 94.5 years—even at this faster rate—to close the gender gap. Third, the Educational Attainment gender gap is on track to be closed over the next 12 years, mainly thanks to advancements in some developing countries. The Health and Survival gender gap remains virtually unchanged since last year. Globally, the time to fully close this gap remains undefined, while gender parity has been already fully achieved in 40 countries among the 153 covered by this edition of the report.
- Iceland is once again the most gender-equal country in the world for the 11th time in a row. It has closed almost 88% of its overall gender gap, further improving since last year. Iceland is followed by Norway (2nd, 84.2%), Finland (3rd, 83.2%) and Sweden (4th, 82.0%). Other economies in the top 10 include Nicaragua (5th, 80.4%), New Zealand (6th, 79.9%), Ireland (7th, 79.8%), Spain (8th, 79.5%), Rwanda (9th, 79.1%) and Germany (10th, 78.7%).
- On average, the eight regions assessed by the report have closed between 60.5% (the average score in Middle East and North Africa) and 76.7% (the average score in Western Europe). North America is a few percentage points below Western Europe (72.9%) and Latin America and the Caribbean (72.2%) has almost caught up with Eastern Europe and Central Asia (71.3%). They are followed by East Asia and the Pacific (68.5%), Sub-Saharan Africa (68.2%) and South Asia (66.1%).
- At the current pace, gender gaps can potentially be closed in 54 years in Western Europe, 59 years in Latin America and the Caribbean (thanks to accelerated speed registered across some countries in the region this year), 71 and a half years in South Asia, 95 years in Sub-Saharan Africa, 107 years in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 140 years in the Middle East and North Africa, 151 years in North America (reflecting lack of progress in the region this year), and 163 years in East Asia and the Pacific. While the increased speed in some regions has reduced the estimated time to close gender gaps, progress remains slow and uneven across countries and regions. Policy-makers and other stakeholders need to further adopt policies and practices to accelerate this process going forward.
- The top five most-improved countries in the overall index this year (Ethiopia, Spain, Mali, Albania, and Mexico) have all closed their gaps by 3.4 percentage points or more, and they all share a substantial increase in women’s presence in political institutions. When it comes to Economic Participation and Opportunity, some countries improve their score compared to last edition. Among them, the most improved (Cape Verde, Mali, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Indonesia) improved their performance by 5 percentage points or more. Further, this year the 153 countries covered by the report include four new entrants: Trinidad and Tobago (24th), Zambia (45th), Vanuatu (126th) and Papua New Guinea (127th).