Gender Inequality

Europe, Africa or Asia – which region will close the economic gender gap first?

Are women and men becoming more equal? The answer is ‘it depends’.

Andrea Willige
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Gender Inequality

Are women and men becoming more equal? The answer is ‘it depends’.

Where you are in the world can make all the difference, according to the World Economic Forum’s latest Global Gender Gap Index.

This is especially true if you look at the economic differences between men and women. The economic gender gap measures things such as how many women are in the workforce and how much women earn compared to men.

Image: Global Gender Gap Index 2016, World Economic Forum

Economic differences prevail

Western Europe dominates the list of top 10 countries that are expected to close the gender gap the soonest, led by Iceland. The region is 25% away from reaching overall gender parity. In economic terms, Western European women can expect to be on a level pegging with men within the next 47 years.

Led by Nicaragua, Latin America and the Caribbean have an average remaining gender gap of 30%, and women are expected to reach economic equality within 61 years.

Sub-Saharan Africa follows closely with a 32% gender gap, and is expected to take another 63 years to close its economic gap between men and women. However, the region presents a very heterogeneous picture, with one top 10 country – Rwanda – as well as many of the lowest-ranked countries in the Index, including Côte d’Ivoire, Mali and Chad.

Eastern Europe and Central Asia is expected to reach economic parity in 93 years, East Asia and the Pacific should get there within the next 111 years, while the Middle East and North Africa region is predicted to take 365 years.

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Waiting for 1,000 years or going backwards

In South Asia, women face a far longer wait. While the region has managed to close 67% of its overall gender gap, the World Economic Forum expects economic parity to be more than 1,000 years away.

With a remaining gender gap of 28%, North America is the region that has made the second-greatest progress towards parity. However, as far as the economic differences between men and women go – from income to labour force participation – North America has been regressing rather than moving forward in recent years.

Image: Global Gender Gap Index 2016, World Economic Forum

The World Economic Forum has been measuring the gender gap annually since 2006. Its Global Gender Gap Index measures progress towards parity between men and women in terms of equal access to education, healthcare, quality work and representation in politics and business.

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Gender InequalityEmerging-Market Multinationals
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