Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

What’s life like for women around the world in 2015?

Emma Batha
Journalist, Thomson Reuters Foundation
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Gender Inequality

Women are staying in school longer, marrying later and having fewer children, but millions remain illiterate and trapped in poverty, the United Nations said on Tuesday. Here is a snapshot from the World’s Women Report.

POPULATION Men outnumber women by some 62 million. About 105 boys are born for every 100 girls. But women outnumber men after age 50.

Average marriage age is 25 for women (29 for men), about 1 year later than in 1995, a reflection of increasing education levels, greater economic independence and a rise in informal unions. Child marriage fell from 31 percent in 1995 to 26 percent in 2010. But rates in Southern Asia (44 percent) and sub-Saharan Africa (40 percent) remain high. Women had an average of 2.5 children in 2010-2015, down from 3 children in 1990-1995. Women in Central and West Africa have more than 5.6 children.

EDUCATION Primary school enrolment is nearly universal, but not in sub-Saharan Africa (75 percent of girls and 81 percent of boys) or Oceania (86 percent of girls and 91 percent of boys). Only 72 percent of girls and 74 percent of boys attended secondary school in 2012.

Girls in primary school perform better than boys in two-thirds of countries.

Nearly two-thirds of the world’s 781 million illiterate adults are women, a proportion unchanged for the last two decades.

HEALTH Life expectancy for women is 72, up from 64 in 1995 (68, up from 60, for men). Maternal mortality has declined by 45 percent since 1990, but remains high in sub-Saharan Africa where only half of women give birth with adequate care. WORK About three-quarters of men and half of women participate in the labour force. The gender gap remains widest in Northern Africa, Western Asia and Southern Asia. Women working full-time earn between 70 and 90 percent of what men earn in most countries.

Women in developing countries spend an average of three hours more a day than men doing unpaid work like household chores and family care, and two hours more in developed countries.

POVERTY In developing regions around one in 10 married women is not consulted on how her own earnings are spent. One in three has no say over major household purchases.

Laws in nearly one-third of developing countries do not guarantee the same inheritance rights for women and men. One-parent households are increasingly common. Lone mothers with children have far higher poverty rates than two-parent households. In Europe, nearly two-thirds of poor people over 65 are women.

POWER There are 19 female heads of state or government, up from 12 in 1995.

Only 22 percent of parliamentarians and 18 percent of appointed ministers are women.

In 2014, fewer than 4 percent of CEOs heading the world’s 500 leading corporations were women.

VIOLENCE More than one in three women has suffered physical and/or sexual violence.

At least 119 countries have passed laws on domestic violence, but they are not always implemented. Fifty-two countries have laws on marital rape. More than 125 million girls and women in Africa and the Middle East have been subjected to female genital mutilation.

This article is published in collaboration with Thomson Reuters Foundation trust.org. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Emma Batha writes for the Thomson Reuters Foundation trust.org 

Image: A woman pushes a pram along the embankment. REUTERS/Thomas Peter.

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Equity, Diversity and InclusionEconomic Growth
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