A decade of slow but steady progress on improving parity between the sexes came to a halt in 2017, with the global gender gap widening for the first time, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report.
The report, which was first published in 2006, estimates it could now take 100 years to close the overall gap, compared to its prediction of 83 last year and 217 years to close the workplace gender gap – 47 years more than it predicted a year ago.
The report says that, overall, 68% of the global gender gap has been closed. This is a slight deterioration on 2016 and 2015, when the gap was 68.3% and 68.1%, respectively. Behind the decline is a widening of the gender gap across all four of the report’s pillars: Educational Attainment , Health and Survival [life expectancy and sex ratio], Economic Opportunity [salaries, participation and leadership] and Political Empowerment [representation in decision-making structures]. These latter two areas are of particular concern because they already carry the largest gaps and, until this year, were registering the fastest progress, says the WEF.
Despite the stalling of progress overall, over a half of all 144 countries measured this year have seen their score improve in the past 12 months, including the UK, which ranks 15th – up five places from last year due mainly to its performance on political empowerment after Theresa May became Prime Minister.
Looking at the individual pillars of the Index, the report finds that in 2017 that 27 countries have now closed the gender gap in Educational Attainment; three more countries than last year. A total of 34 countries – four less than last year – have closed their Health and Survival gender gaps. Only six countries have closed the gap in both of these pillars. In Economic Participation and Opportunity, no country has fully closed the gender gap but 13 countries (two more than last year) have closed more than 80% of their gap. Political Empowerment has the widest gender gap with only Iceland – the top-ranking country overall – having closed more than 70% of the gap.
The UK ranks 53 for economic participation and opportunity, 36 for education, 100 for health and 17 for political empowerment.