Global Gender Gap Report 2021
The World Economic Forum, an international NGO based in Cologny, Geneva Canton, Switzerland, has released the 2021 edition of its Global Gender Gap Report. Now in its 15th year, the report benchmarks the evolution of gender-based gaps in four areas: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. It also examines the drivers of gender gaps and outlines the policies and practices needed for a gender-inclusive recovery.
According to the latest report, Iceland has topped the index for the 12th time and is the most gender-equal country in the world. The list of top 10 most gender-equal countries is rounded off by Finland, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, Namibia, Rwanda, Lithuania, Ireland and Switzerland. The UK is ranked 23rd, while the US is lower, at 30.
At the other end of the spectrum, Afghanistan is the most unequal country, the WEF report says. Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Mali, Chad and Saudi Arabia complete the worst 10 countries when it comes to gender inequality.
This year’s results reduce the total progress made towards gender parity to just a 3.6 percentage-point gain since 2006. The WEF report said that, on average, over the past 15 years, the gap has been reduced by only 0.24 percentage points per year.
“If progress towards gender parity proceeds at the same speed observed between the 2006 and 2021 editions, the overall global gender gap is projected to close in 135.6 years. It will, therefore, take longer than reported in the 2020 edition, due to widening average gender gaps, as well as to a plateauing in performances over the past few years,” the report says.
This year, the Global Gender Gap index has benchmarked 156 countries, providing a tool for cross-country comparison and to prioritize the most effective policies needed to close gender gaps.
The 2021 report’s findings are listed below.
Global Trends and Outcomes
· Globally, the average distance completed to parity is at 68%, a step back compared to 2020 (-0.6 percentage points). These figures are mainly driven by a decline in the performance of large countries. On its current trajectory, it will now take 135.6 years to close the gender gap worldwide.
· The gender gap in Political Empowerment remains the largest of the four gaps tracked, with only 22% closed to date, having further widened since the 2020 edition of the report by 2.4 percentage points. Across the 156 countries covered by the index, women represent only 26.1% of some 35,500 parliament seats and just 22.6% of over 3,400 ministers worldwide. In 81 countries, there has never been a woman head of state, as of 15th January 2021. At the current rate of progress, the World Economic Forum estimates that it will take 145.5 years to attain gender parity in politics.
· Widening gender gaps in Political Participation have been driven by negative trends in some large countries which have counterbalanced progress in another 98 smaller countries. Globally, since the previous edition of the report, there are more women in parliaments, and two countries have elected their first female prime minister (Togo in 2020 and Belgium in 2019).
· The gender gap in Economic Participation and Opportunity remains the second-largest of the four key gaps tracked, by the index. According to this year’s index results 58% of this gap has been closed so far. The gap has seen marginal improvement since the 2020 edition of the report and as a result, the WEF estimates that it will take another 267.6 years to close.
· The slow progress seen in closing the Economic Participation and Opportunity gap is the result of two opposing trends. On the one hand, the proportion of women among skilled professionals continues to increase, as does progress towards wage equality, albeit at a slower pace. On the other hand, overall income disparities are still only part-way towards being bridged and there is a persistent lack of women in leadership positions, with women representing just 27% of all manager positions. Additionally, the data available for the 2021 edition of the report does not yet fully reflect the impact of the pandemic. Projections for a select number of countries show that gender gaps in labour force participation are wider since the outbreak of the pandemic. Globally, the economic gender gap may thus be between 1% and 4% wider than reported.
· Gender gaps in Educational Attainment and Health and Survival are nearly closed. In Educational Attainment, 95% of this gender gap has been closed globally, with 37 countries already at parity. However, the ‘last mile’ of progress is proceeding slowly. The index estimates that on its current trajectory, it will take another 14.2 years to completely close this gap. In Health and Survival, 96% of this gender gap has been closed, registering a marginal decline since last year not due to Covid-19, and the time to close this gap remains undefined. For both education and health, while progress is higher than for economy and politics in the global data, there are important future implications of disruptions due to the pandemic, as well as continued variations in quality across income, geography, race and ethnicity.
Performance of Pakistan
Pakistan has shown a dismal performance when it comes to gender parity as the country slipped two spots since last year to rank 153rd out of 156 countries on the index. The report found that Pakistan’s gender gap had widened by 0.7 percentage points, to 55.6 percent, making it one of the worst countries for gender parity. Only Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan fared worse. Pakistan featured among the bottom 10 countries in two of the four sub-indices — economic participation and opportunity and health and survival — according to the report. The country closed just 31.6pc of its gender gap in economic participation and opportunity.
The scorecard for the country places Pakistan at 152 in economic participation and opportunity, 144 in educational attainment, 153 in health and survival, and 98 in political empowerment. In the South Asian region, Pakistan ranked seventh among eight countries, Afghanistan being the lowest.
Pakistan’s rankings have worsened over time, with data collected showing that in 2006, the country ranked 112 in economic participation and opportunity, 110 in education attainment, 112 in health and survival, and 37 in political empowerment.
“Few women participate in the labour force (22.6pc) and even fewer are in managerial positions (4.9pc). This means that only 26.7pc and 5.2pc, respectively, of these gaps have been closed so far, translating into very large income disparities between women and men: on average, a Pakistani woman’s income is 16.3pc of a man’s,” the report stated.
However, improvement has been seen with more women taking on professional and technical roles — 25.3pc, up from 23.4pc in the previous edition of the index.
It pointed out that women do not have equal access to justice, ownership of land, and non-financial assets or inheritance rights.
When it comes to education, gender gaps as large as 13pc or more exist across all levels. According to the report, “these gaps are the widest at lower education levels (84.1pc primary enrolment gap closed) and are somewhat narrower for higher education levels (84.7pc gap closed in secondary enrolment and 87.1pc closed in tertiary enrolment).
“Further, only 46.5pc of women are literate, 61.6pc attend primary school, 34.2pc attend high school and 8.3pc are enrolled in tertiary education courses.”
Pakistan has closed 94.4pc of its health and survival gender gap, the report stated, adding that the gap on this sub-index was negatively impacted by wide sex ratio at birth (92pc) due to gender-based sex-selective practices. Around 85pc of women have suffered intimate partner violence, it further said.
Pakistan’s rank is relatively higher for political empowerment. The report observed however that only 15.4pc of this gap has been closed to date. “With just 4.7 years (in the last 50) with a woman as head of state, Pakistan is one of the top 33 countries in the world on this indicator. However, women’s representation among parliamentarians (20.2pc) and ministers (10.7pc) remains low.”
Among regions, South Asia is the second-lowest performer on the index – after Middle East and North Africa – with 62.3% of its overall gender gap closed. Progress has been too slow in the recent past, and this year it has actually reversed.
“Within the region, a wide gulf separates the best-performing country, Bangladesh, which has closed 71.9pc of its gender gap so far, from Afghanistan, which has only closed 44.4pc of its gap. India is the third-worst performer in the region, having closed 62.5pc of its gap … Only Bhutan and Nepal have demonstrated small but positive progress towards gender parity this year, while all other countries in this region have registered either slightly reduced or stagnant performances,” the report said.