The Philippines and New Zealand are the best-performing countries in Asia and the Pacific in the rankings of the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap 2014 Report, published today, and the only two in the region to make the top 20 globally.

The report ranks 142 countries on their ability to close the gender gap – making sure women are not held back – in four fundamental areas: economic participation and opportunity, education, health and survival, and political empowerment.

In 2014, the Asia and the Pacific region has closed 66% of its overall gender gap; of the 18 countries in the region, 11 have improved their overall score, six have seen their score decreased and one has stayed the same compared to last year.

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The Philippines (9 out of 142 countries globally) is the only country in the region in the global top 10, ranking strongly for economic participation and wage equality. It has narrowed the education, health and survival gaps over the past year, and is the second-best country (just after Norway) on the ability of women to rise to positions of leadership in enterprise. The Philippines has the highest percentage of firms with female participation in ownership (69%).

New Zealand (13) misses a place in the global top 10 for the first time this year. The country has closed its educational gender gap and is in the top 15 best-performing countries for the political empowerment of women. New Zealand was the first country where women received the right to vote, in 1893.

Australia (24) has seen improvements in opportunities for economic participation for women, it is the second-best country globally on earnings equality, and the education gender gap has narrowed, but these improvements were slightly offset by a decrease in the political empowerment of women.

Mongolia (42) ranks 10th in the world in equality of economic participation and opportunities, and has narrowed the gender gap on health and survival. It is the second-best country overall in perceptions of wage equality, and is the best country in the region for equality of access to professional and technical work.

Singapore (59) ranks 18th globally for equality in economic participation and opportunity, and is the country with the lowest total fertility rate.

Lao PDR (60) ranks fifth in the world for equality of labour force participation, and is 13th globally for equality of opportunity and participation in the economy.

Thailand (61)has narrowed its gender gap on measures of health and survival, and ranks fourth in the world for perceived equality of wages. Thailand has, however, seen a significant decrease in the level of political empowerment for women.

Bangladesh (68) this year posts its highest ever overall score in these rankings, having made important improvements to opportunities for economic participation for women, and gains in education and health. It is the best-performing country in the region on equality of primary education and is in the top 10 for secondary education. Bangladesh ranks poorly, however, for equality of representation in the legislature and in senior posts, although it has had a female head of state indicator for 21 years out of the past 50. Bangladesh is the second-highest ranking country for the percentage of women aged 15 to 19 in marriage.

Vietnam(76) is among the three countries from the region scoring below average for equality of health and survival. It has the second-lowest ranking overall for a balanced gender ratio at birth, though this is partially offset by women having a healthy life expectancy.

Sri Lanka (79) continues to make progress in closing the gender gap on health and survival, and has high involvement of women in tertiary education, ranking 13th in the world. There are few women in ministerial positions in parliament, but this is partially offset by the fact that the country has had a female head of state for 21 years out of the past 50.

Author: Yasmina Bekhouche is a Project Manager on the World Economic Forum’s Gender Parity Team.

ImageUniversity students take a “selfie” after attending classes outside a school in Cavite city, south of Manila. REUTERS/Erik De Castro