Closing The Gap

Global gender gap will take another 99 years to close, WEF report reveals

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It will take another 99.5 years to achieve global gender equality, according to an annual report by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

The Global Gender Gap Report 2020, now in its 14th year, benchmarked 153 countries on their progress toward equality of the sexes based on four categories – economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, as well as political empowerment.

While the 2019 findings mean many of us will not see full gender parity in our lifetime, it was an improvement on the 108 years in the 2018 index.

WEF attributed this progress to greater political representation for women, despite this remaining the worst category for gender equality.

It will take 95 years to close the gender gap in political representation, with women holding just a quarter of parliamentary seats and around a fifth of ministerial positions.

"Positively, the so-called "role model effect" may be reaping dividends in terms of leadership and wages," the report noted. "Improving political empowerment for women has, as a general rule, corresponded with increased numbers of women in senior roles in the labor market."

On the opposite end of the spectrum, WEF report states it would take just 12 years to achieve gender parity in education.

'Progress will be stymied'

Iceland held onto the top spot for 11th year in a row, having closed nearly 88% of its overall gender gap and has continued to improve on last year's rankings. It has completely closed its gaps in education and health and survival.

It remains the top performer for political empowerment, having had a female leader for the 22 of the last 50 years. Women make up 38% of Iceland's parliament and 40% of its ministers.

In addition, women account for 42% of its senior officials and 43% of companies' board members.

This is despite the fact that Iceland has a significantly less generous parental leave policy than some other European countries. Women receive 68% of their gross salary during maternity leave, while this stands at 94% in Norway, 78% in Sweden and 90% in France.

Iceland was followed by other Nordic countries such as Norway, Finland and Sweden, with each improving on gender equality in the world of politics.

At the bottom of the list was Yemen, which was preceded by other Middle Eastern countries Iraq, Pakistan and Syria.

The Middle East and North Africa scored lowest on the gender gap index, with the region expected to achieve equality of the sexes in approximately 150 years.

"For now, many women in the region continue to face limitations of basic rights, including for divorce, inheritance, asset ownership, access to justice and freedom of movement," WEF pointed out.

In fact, there are still 72 countries where women are barred from opening bank accounts or obtaining credit. And in the last 50 years, 85 states have had no female leaders.

"Without representing one-half of the population in national and local politics, progress will be stymied in other areas pertinent to women and the quest for gender parity," WEF warned.

The most improved countries were Albania, Ethiopia, Mali, Mexico and Spain, with each having seen an increased presence of women in their political institutions.

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