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Global Gender Gap Report shows little progress on political or economic equality

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Laura Bridgestock
WVoN co-editor

The Global Gender Gap Report 2011, published by the World Economic Forum earlier this week, shows progress in education and health equality, but still huge disparity in political and economic participation.

Covering 135 countries, the report measures gender equality in terms of economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.

Scandinavian countries rank very highly – the top four spots go to Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden, with Denmark at seventh. Ireland is fifth and New Zealand sixth.

The bottom ten includes Nepal, Oman, Benin, Morocco, Côte d’Ivoire, Saudi Arabia, Mali, Pakistan, Chad and Yemen. Syria is ranked at 124 and Iran at 125. Afghanistan is not included.

Regionally, North America leads, followed by Europe and Central Asia. The lowest ranking region is the Middle East and North Africa.

The report shows that of the 114 countries included every year since 2006, 97 (85%) have made progress in closing the gender gap.

The 135 countries included this year have on average closed 96% of the gender gap in health outcomes, and almost 93% of the gap in educational attainment.

The report says the education gap has now been fully closed in 22 countries, while 38 have closed the gap in health and survival. Eight have succeeded in both categories.

But only 59% of the gap in economic outcomes has been bridged, and just 18% of the disparity in political empowerment. No country has fully closed the gap in either category.

The Bahamas ranks highest for economy, having bridged 91% of the gap, and Iceland highest in politics, with 70% of the gap closed. The report says Saudi Arabia has made no progress at all towards political equality.

The report also highlights the relationship between investment in gender equality and a country’s economic performance and competitiveness: ‘investing in girls’ education is one of the highest-return investments a developing economy can make’.

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