World gender gap narrows, but UK remains static

The world’s gender gaps narrowed slightly in 2013, although the UK has remained virtually static since 2006, according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2013.

The eighth annual edition of the Report, released by the World Economic Forum, ranks 136 countries on their ability to close the gender gap in four key areas: economic participation and opportunity, political empowerment, health and survival, educational attainment, political participation and economic equality. Of the 133 countries that were measured in  both 2012 and 2013, 86 improved their gender gap during this time. Overall, the Report finds Iceland the most advanced country in the world in terms of gender equality for the fifth year running. It, along with Finland (2nd), Norway (3rd) and Sweden (4th), has now closed over 80% of its gender gap. These countries are joined in the top 10 by the Philippines, which enters the top five for the first time, Ireland (6th), New Zealand (7th), Denmark (8th), Switzerland (9th) and Nicaragua (10th).

In 14th place Germany is the highest-placed individual G20 economy, although it falls one place from 2012. Next is South Africa (17th, down one), the United Kingdom (level on 18th, but down from 9th position in 2006, and Canada (up one to 20th). The United States comes 23rd, also down one place since 2012. After South Africa, the next highest BRICS nation is Russia (61st), followed by Brazil (62nd), China (69th) and India (101st). At the bottom of the ranking are Chad (134th), Pakistan (135th) and Yemen (136th).

At the global level, the Report finds that in 2013, 96% of the health and survival gender gap has now been closed. It is the only one of the four pillars that has widened since the Report was first compiled in 2006. In terms of education, the global gender gap stands at 93%, with 25 countries having closed their gaps completely. The gender gaps for economic equality and political participation are only 60% and 21% closed respectively, although progress is being made in these areas, with political participation narrowing by almost 2% over the last year. In both developing and developed countries alike, relative to the numbers of women in tertiary education and in the workforce overall, women’s presence in economic leadership positions is limited.

The UK scores well on literacy and post-primary education, but came 35th for economic gender equality, 71st for helping women to find technical and professional positions and 54th for getting women into parliament.

“Countries will need to start thinking of human capital very differently – including how they integrate women into leadership roles. This shift in mindset and practice is not a goal for the future, it is an imperative today,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

“Both within countries and between countries are two distinct tracks to economic gender equality, with education serving as the accelerator. For countries that provide this basic investment, women’s integration in the workforce is the next frontier of change. For those that haven’t invested in women’s education, addressing this obstacle is critical to women’s lives as well as the strength of economies,” said Saadia Zahidi, co-author of the Report and Head of the Women Leaders and Gender Parity Programme.





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