World falls short on equality

Sweden has gone farthest in eliminating inequality between men and women, followed by Norway in second place, and Finland and Iceland in third and fourth positions.

The Philippines is the only Asian country in the top 10. In ninth spot it ranks below 8th placed Slovenia, and just above Ireland in 10th position.

Australia comes in at 15th place, behind New Zealand’s 7th ranking, while the United States comes in at 22. Yemen ranks bottom.

The ranking, called the Gender Gap Index, covers 90 per cent of the world’s population and was compiled by researchers from Harvard University, the London Business School and the World Economic Forum.

“For the first time the gut instincts that many of us have are backed up by statistics,” said Cherie Booth, the wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and a human rights lawyer.

“There’s no way the gender gap between men and women has been eliminated,” she said at the launch of the index.

The index measures gaps between men and women in four areas: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment.

By quantifying differences between the sexes in access to resources or opportunities, rather than measuring absolute levels, the researchers sought to strip out the impact of economic development.

For economic participation, for example, the researchers measured the proportion of men and women in work, pay gaps and the ratio of women to men among legislators, senior officials and managers.

Narrow gap

The study shows the gender gap for health and survival is very narrow across the world. Based on a score of 1 meaning full equality and 0 a complete lack of equality, the range for all 115 countries is just 0.9796 to 0.9227.

But when it comes to political empowerment – the ratio of women to men in parliament, ministerial positions, and heads of state over the past 50 years – the best performer is Sweden with a score of 0.5501. Saudi Arabia is last with zero.

The Nordic countries benefited from a higher proportion of women in political office than many and this is the measure that hits the American ranking, despite its good scores elsewhere.

“Women have been empowered to participate in the labour force, but not in politics,” said Ricardo Hausmann from Harvard University, one the authors of the report.

The Philippines scored well across the board and is one of only five countries to have closed the gender gap for both health and education. The others are Dominican Republic, France, Honduras and Lesotho.

France, however, only comes 70th in the ranking. It falls down on both the economic participation and political empowerment rankings.

South Africa is the best performer in Africa coming in at 18.