Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Gender equality ranking – clear winners and losers?

This post first appeared on Gender Debate

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report measures gender inequality in various nations by focusing on the gaps between men and women in the economic, political, educational and health spheres.

Four critical areas of gender inequality are considered, which are economic participation (wages, participation levels, access to high-skilled employment), educational attainment, political empowerment and health outcomes.

Here are the top 5 most and least equal countries, according to the newest measurement for the year 2011 (Global Gender Gap Report 2011).

Countries with the most gender equality: Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Ireland.

Countries with the least gender equality: Yemen, Chad, Pakistan, Mali and Saudi Arabia.

This global ranking is, however, somewhat obscure, because the contribution of the different areas of gender inequality is not evident at first sight. A closer look at the composition of the index shows that while 90 percent of gaps in life expectancy and access to education have been closed worldwide, women continue to lag behind men particularly at work and in politics.

Especially in developing regions, women work as many working hours as men, even when having children, but women tend to work more than man in precarious and informal work. They are overrepresented as contributing family workers, especially in the agricultural sector, while men tend more than women to work in the industrial sector and in high status jobs (employers, managerial positions…). Thus, women generally face lower job quality than men.

For more information about gender occupations by sector and by status in developing countries, see related article on this blog: How about gender equity in employment in developing countries?

The main consequence of the gender difference in occupations is that women generally earn less than men. Even in highly developed countries, there still exists a significant wage gap between men and women when considering hourly wages. Hence, women are less covered by social security and more exposed to poverty, especially at older ages – a trend which is generally known as the ‘feminization of poverty’.

For further information about the gender wage gap, see related article on this blog: Reducing the gender wage gap – how to tackle the task?

Finally, all over the world women are significantly less represented in politics. Women’s share in parliaments stays remarkably low even in many developed countries.

See following articles on this blog for more information about women in parliaments: Economists for gender quotas in parliaments./ Women’s legal rights – progress and backlashes.

Women’s share in parliaments is particularly low in France, for example. This is why the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index ranks Germany much better than France. However, concluding that women are generally less discriminated in Germany than in France would be rather premature, as, for example, the employment composition of the index does not account for working hours. The full time equivalent employment rate for women is much higher in France than in Germany (55% against 45%). The fact that total fertility rates are also significantly higher in France than in Germany (2,1 against 1,3 children per women on average in 2011) suggests that women with children succeed much better to combine work and family life in France than in Germany – an aspect that is neglected by the Gender Gap Index.

For more information about the gender gap index in France and Germany, see the following related article on this blog: Gender Gap Index: Gender equality much higher in Germany than in France!?

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