The Global Gender Gap has improved by a modest four per cent since 2006 according to the World Economic Forum’s annual Gender Gap Report. Results from the report suggest that we may have to wait another 81 years to see gender equality in the workplace. Whilst most countries have seen gradual improvement some, including the UK, have seen gender disparities increase. This year’s Global Gender Gap Report provides an insight into the changes in various regions and countries across the world.
The Report measures 142 countries and quantifies data based on four main areas – economy, politics, health and education. The gap is narrowest in terms of health and survival with 35 countries having closed the gap entirely. Nordic countries remain the most gender equal countries with Iceland (1st), Finland (2nd), Norway (3rd), Sweden (4th) and Denmark (5th) having risen from 8th place. However, no country has fully closed the gap.
Germany and France both saw an increase with Germany climbing two places to 12th and France making a considerable jump from 45th place to 16th. The UK, however, has fallen eight places to 26th. This result can be attributed to a significantly low score in ‘economic participation’, which measures women in the workforce, the number of women in senior positions and wage equality.
The highest ranking Middle Eastern country is Kuwait at 113th while the United Arab Emirates, despite a fall in the rankings, has made significant improvements in terms of political and economic participation.
In absolute terms, the region with the most significant change was Latin America, followed by North America, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and the Middle East and North Africa.
Among the BRICS countries South Africa held the highest position at 18th place, followed by Brazil at 71st, Russia at 75th, China at 87th and India at 114th place.
‘Much of the progress on gender equality over the last 10 years has come from more women entering politics and the workforce. While more women and more men have joined the workforce over the last decade, more women than men entered the labour force in 49 countries. And in the case of politics, globally, there are now 26 per cent more female parliamentarians and 50 per cent more female ministers than nine years ago. These are far-reaching changes – for economies and national cultures, however it is clear that much work still remains to be done, and that the pace of change must in some areas be accelerated’, said Saadia Zahidi, Head of the Gender Parity Programme at the World Economic Forum and lead author of the report.
While the Nordic countries continue to dominate the rankings as the most gender-equal societies, the most drastic improvements have been in countries such as Saudi Arabia for education attainment and Angola for health and survival. However, these improvements are relative to their previous scores. Saudi Arabia is one of four countries overall that does not have any female ministers and ranking at 130th makes it the lowest performing high-income country.
Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, commented on the economic implications of narrowing the gender equality gap. He said: ‘Achieving gender equality is obviously necessary for economic reasons. Only those economies who have full access to all their talent will remain competitive and will prosper. But even more important, gender equality is a matter of justice. As a humanity, we also have the obligation to ensure a balance set of values’.
So far, 35 countries have managed to close the gap in terms of health and survival. Globally this stands at 96 per cent. Eight countries, including the Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, France, Guyana, Latvia, Namibia, and the Philippines have closed the gap completely in both health and education. The gap for economic participation and opportunity is third lowest and the gap for political empowerment is lower still at 21 per cent, however it has seen the most improvement since 2006.
It’s important to bear in mind the implications of a more gender-equal society. The health and education of women will directly affect future generations of both men and women. More women in political positions will lead to more balanced decision-making, which take into account the needs of society in a broader, more inclusive way. It’s certain that an increasing number of countries are beginning to recognise this, however, there is still a long way to go and it’s predicted that it might not be until 2095 that we start to see gender equality in the workplace.