Closing The Gap

No country in the world meets the mark on gender equality, but these are the best performers

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As many as 40% of the world's female population live in countries that fail to meet the mark on basic measures of gender equality, while a further 40% face substandard equality conditions.

That's according to a new report released Monday by Equal Measures 2030, which found that 2.8 billion women and girls globally live in countries with "poor" or "very poor" levels of gender equality, despite ongoing efforts to bridge the gap.

The Gender Index measured the countries' success in achieving gender equality across 14 of the 17 United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). It found that no country in the world has yet "achieved the promise of gender equality," nor does any one country score consistently well across all measures.

The SDGs are a range of measures laid out in 2015 in a bid to improve global living standards by 2030. For the purposes of the study, those categories were broken down into 51 subsections measuring factors such as health, education, gender-based violence, work and politics.

Equal Measures 2030'S 2019 SDG Gender Index

Best and worst performers

Just 8% percent of the 129 countries measured scored a "good" rating of 80 or more — out of 100 — for their progress in achieving gender equality, the report found. Meanwhile, 12% managed a "fair" rating of 70 to 79.

The remaining 80% of countries measured scored either "poor" (60 to 69 points) or "very poor" (below 60).

No single country achieved an "excellent" score of 90 or above.

The global average score was 65.7 out of 100, which the report said was "barely (a) pass." More than 60 countries were omitted from the list due to lack of data.

Denmark emerged as the world's most progressive country in terms of gender equality, achieving a near-excellent score of 89.3 out of 100. It was joined in the top 10 by Finland, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Germany, Canada, Ireland and Australia.

The U.K. ranked 17th and the U.S. came in at 28th.

At the other end of the spectrum, Chad came out at the bottom of the list, with a score of 33.4 out of 100. Other countries in the bottom 10 of the index included Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Yemen, Congo, DR Congo. All those countries also appeared on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's 2018 list of fragile states.

Equal Measures 2030'S 2019 SDG Gender Index
Equal Measures 2030

A 'wake up' call

Overall, Europe and North America were the best performing regions, with an average regional score of 79.1. That was due in large part to the more advanced economies and greater levels of resources there.

However, the report noted that even leading countries have to address a number of outstanding issues — such as gender-based violence, poverty and women's participation in the economy — in order to reach "the last mile."

Latin America and the Caribbean ranked in second place (66.5), followed by Asia-Pacific (64.6), the Middle East and North Africa (60.8) and, lastly, Sub-Saharan Africa (51.1).

The report shows there's still a long way to go to achieve gender equality on a global level, said Alison Holder, director of Equal Measures 203, who called on governments and businesses to take coordinated action. That includes allocating more funds to equality programs and improving data, the report suggested.

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the report's contributors, said the findings should act as a "wake-up call" for policymakers. But she also highlighted the work that some of the least developed countries have made in recent years, saying that it provided hope for greater progress going forward.

"Many countries with the most limited resources are making huge strides in removing the barriers for girls and women across economies, politics and society – demonstrating that when it comes to gender equality, governments shouldn't have excuses for inaction," said Gates.

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