28 October 2014

Philippines, New Zealand and Australia are top three for gender equality in APAC

The global gender gap has barely shrunk in nine years. According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2014*, launched today, the gender gap for economic participation and opportunity now stands at 60% worldwide, having closed by 4% from 56% in 2006 when the World Economic Forum (WEF) first started measuring it. With all else remaining equal, it will take 81 years for the world to close this gap completely, the organisation 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 humanity, we also have the obligation to ensure a balanced set of values,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the WEF.

The WEF points out that healthy and educated women are likely to have healthier and more educated children, creating a virtuous cycle for any community or country. When the number of women involved in political decision-making reaches a critical mass, their decisions – which take into account the needs of a wider segment of society – lead to more inclusive results. Companies that recruit and retain women, and ensure that they attain leadership positions, outperform those that do not. 

The report, an initiative by the Gender Parity Programme, measures the gender gap in 142 countries, and says it is narrowest in terms of health and survival. "This gap stands at 96% globally, with 35 countries having closed the gap entirely," said the WEF in a statement. Three countries closed the gap in the past 12 months. 

The gap for educational attainment is the next narrowest, at 94% globally, and 25 countries have closed the gap entirely. The gap for political empowerment, meanwhile, is only at 21%, but has seen the most improvement since 2006. 

The WEF notes that the trends are not always positive. Nearly 30% of the countries covered have wider education gaps than they did nine years ago, and over 40% of countries have wider health and survival gaps than they did nine years ago, the organisation said.

In Asia and the Pacific, the Philippines remains the region’s highest-ranked country (no. 9), followed by New Zealand (no. 13) and Australia (no. 24). Only one other nation, Mongolia (no. 42), is in the top 50. Singapore, the People’s Democratic Republic of Laos and Thailand come next in 59th, 60th and 61st place, respectively. Japan has gone up one place to 104th; China has fallen 18 places to 87th, largely due to its very low sex ratio at birth; and India is now the lowest-ranked BRICS nation at 114th. India is also one of the few countries where female labour force participation is shrinking.

In the Middle East and North Africa, Kuwait, at 113rd, is the highest-placed country in the region, after making significant gains in overall income, including for women. The UAE, at 115th, 
second highest-ranked. It is lower in the rankings but has shown major improvement relative to its past performance on economic and political participation. The lowest-ranked country in the index, Yemen, at 142nd, has remained at the bottom of the index since 2006; but it has significantly improved relative to its own past scores.

“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% more female parliamentarians and 50% 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 WEF and lead author of the report.

Key findings for Asia Pacific and the Middle East include:

The most improved country relative to its starting point nine years ago for economic participation and opportunity is Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates for political empowerment. In absolute terms, the most improved country is Nepal for educational attainment.

Within the economic participation category, Nepal was one of the countries globally which had the most absolute gain in terms of increased rates of female labour force participation. Kuwait and Singapore have seen the largest absolute gains on women’s income.

The countries with the most losses relative to their past performance are: Jordan on economic participation, and India on health. 

The least-improved countries in absolute terms are: India for health and survival, and Sri Lanka for political empowerment.

Read the full report here

*The Global Gender Gap Index ranks 142 countries on the gap between women and men on health, education, economic and political indicators. It aims to understand whether countries are distributing their resources and opportunities equitably between women and men, irrespective of their overall income levels. The report measures the size of the gender inequality gap in four areas:
  • Economic participation and opportunity – salaries, participation and leadership
  • Education – access to basic and higher levels of education
  • Political empowerment – representation in decision-making structures
  • Health and survival – life expectancy and sex ratio
Index scores can be interpreted as the percentage of the gap that has been closed between women and men, and allow countries to compare their current performance relative to their past performance. In addition, the rankings allow for comparisons between countries. Thirteen out of the 14 variables used to create the index are from publicly available hard data indicators from international organisations such as the International Labour Organization, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Health Organization.