Despite a shrinking gender gap in many parts of the world, a lot of work still needs to be done to fully eradicate inequalities between the sexes.

Asian economies that recognize the contribution gender equality makes to their economic success could lead the way in shrinking the gap further.

Since 2006, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index has raised awareness of gender disparities that exist around the world. The latest report highlights the areas of outstanding performance in Asia’s top 10 gender-equal states by analysing their economic, education, health and political opportunities. It also looks at areas where these countries face challenges in closing specific areas of the gender gap.

1. Philippines

As the only nation from the region to make it into the global top 10, the report’s findings place the Philippines as the most gender equal nation in Asia.

Although this archipelago country slipped three places since last year’s global report, largely due to a performance drop in the report’s Wage Equality for Similar Work indicator, it has closed 79% of its total gender gap.

The Philippines has completely eradicated the gap between the sexes in educational attainment, but has re-opened a previously closed Health and Survival gender gap for the first time since the report was issued.

2. Bangladesh

This South Asian nation has climbed several places since last year’s report, reaching 47th place in the global ranking. Bangladesh has closed almost 72% of its overall gender gap, with advances in every aspect of the Economic Opportunity and Participation indicator.

Improvements have been made in creating equal opportunities for legislator, senior official and manager roles, as well as professional and technical roles.

Greater parity exists in the country’s Estimated Earned Income and Wage Equality for Similar Work indices, despite seeing the healthy life expectancy gender gap widen slightly.

3. Mongolia

Ranked 53 in the global index, Mongolia has climbed the rankings to reach third place in Asia.

As with Bangladesh, the country improved its gender balance among legislators, senior officials and managers, and made great strides forward with political empowerment issues for women.

Mongolia is one of only three Asian countries, along with Japan and Cambodia, to fully close the Health and Survival index gender gap.

4. Lao PDR

Compounding earlier success, Lao is the only country outside of Africa to eliminate the gender gap in labour-force participation (for the second year in a row).

Lao has recorded year-on-year improvements in tertiary enrolment opportunities and improved women’s share of estimated earned income.

Despite these successes, following two years of progress the overall gender gap has widened, caused chiefly by a fall in literacy-rate parity and a drop in wage equality for similar work.


5. Singapore

Close behind Lao, Singapore saw more female participation in the economy, with a notable increase in female labour-force participation and continued a trend now approaching near-parity in technical and professional workers.

Singapore also ranked higher on the report’s Health and Survival sub-index, increasing parity in healthy life expectancy.

Following the report’s restructured scale for the Estimated Earned Income, Singapore widened the gap in estimated earned income.

6. Vietnam

Although Vietnam experienced a decrease in gender parity for women in ministerial positions, it fully closed the gender gap among its technical and professional workers. Likewise, equal opportunities were recorded for enrolment in tertiary education sectors.

7. Thailand

Thailand saw greater gender parity for women in ministerial positions.

Also, the country fully closed its gender gap for technical and professional workers and, like Vietnam, saw more parity with enrolment in tertiary education.

8. Myanmar

As a newcomer to the Global Gender Gap Index, Myanmar has eliminated gender differences in secondary and tertiary education enrolment.

In addition to increasing women’s share of technical and professional roles, closing the gap fully, Myanmar has reached near parity in total labour-force participation.

However, the country’s women are under-represented in legislator, senior official and manager roles and inequalities exist in basic literacy rates and components of the GGGI report’s Health and Survival subindex.

9. Indonesia

Another country that has gained several places on the global index, Indonesia continues to make ground in closing its gender gap.

Advances have been made in wage equality for similar work and opportunities for political empowerment. However, the previously closed gender gap for professional and technical workers has begun to widen for the second year in a row.

10 Cambodia

Like Indonesia, Cambodia has climbed a few places on the index and continues to reduce its overall gender gap.

The country’s women enjoy an increased share of legislator, senior official and management roles, and greater opportunities to enrol in tertiary education.

Cambodia has maintained a closed gender gap for its Health and Survival index, too.