Nine of the 10 best OECD countries for working women are in Europe, and two of the top three are in the Nordics. And although there is progress being made in other parts of the world to close the gender equality gap, there is still a lot of work to be done. This is according to the PwC Women in Work Index 2019, which identified a gradual improvement across the OECD for female economic empowerment.

Image: Statista

The two top spots are unchanged, with Iceland’s position as the top performer strengthened by an increase in female labour force participation and a fall in the female unemployment rate. One reason for Sweden’s consistently high performance is its progressive parental leave legislation, which actively encourages men to use their statutory time off.

The rest of the top 10 is made of countries you would most likely expect to find among the best performers. All the Nordic countries are there, for example, but Norway was knocked out of the top five by Slovenia, which saw a rising number of women in work.

New Zealand, the only non-European OECD country in the top 10, sits in third place – its highest ever placing in the index. Luxembourg and Poland also made significant improvements, through narrowing the gender pay gap and a large reduction in the female unemployment rate, respectively.

However, Portugal, the US and Austria all fell significantly; Portugal saw a substantial rise in its gender pay gap while the US and Austria experienced a drop in female labour force participation and full-time employment, respectively.

PwC also looked at the relative performance of two non-OECD countries – China and India.

China would have ranked between Slovakia (26) and Japan (27). It has a larger than average (among the OECD) gender pay gap of 25% coupled with a relatively high proportion of working women in full-time employment – at 89%.

Meanwhile, India would be languishing right at the bottom of the PwC index. It has a substantial gender pay gap of 36% (higher than any other OECD nation) and relatively low levels of female participation in the workforce. If India could get female employment up to the same rate as Sweden (69%) it could potentially generate an extra $7 trillion – approximately 79% of India’s GDP.