Gender Inequality

6 surprising facts about the global gender pay gap

Gender pay gap: Team brainstorm around a laptop.

The gender pay gap isn’t going away any time soon. Image: Unsplash/ Mapbox

Victoria Masterson
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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Gender Inequality

  • Timor-Leste, Rwanda and Barbados are among the countries making progress on gender pay equality.
  • But global gender pay parity remains a distant dream.
  • Women are 267.6 years away from gender parity in the area of economic participation and opportunity, according to the World Economic Forum.

Women globally earn around 37% less than men in similar roles, according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2021 from the World Economic Forum.

In its index of 156 countries, the Forum finds progress on closing the gender gap is painfully slow. In fact, based on the current trajectory, women are 267.6 years away from gender parity in the area of economic participation and opportunity – which includes equal pay.

But signs of progress on gender pay are emerging. Here are some promising examples.

1. Pay parity in Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste, an island country in the Indonesian archipelago in Southeast Asia, is one of a handful of developing countries where women are estimated to earn the same as men. It ranks 64th globally in the Forum’s gender gap rankings and is one of the three most-improved countries, after boosting its overall score by 5.8%. Other developing countries where women and men are estimated to earn the same include Burundi and Liberia.

2. Wage equality rises in Rwanda

Rwanda in East Africa has closed 80.9% of its wage equality gap. This helped it secure 7th place in the world’s top 10 gender-equal countries in the Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Index. The country, which has a population of around 13 million, has the highest gender gap performance among Sub-Saharan African countries. The share of women in senior and managerial roles in Rwanda doubled between 2014 and 2019 to 28.6%. There are also more women in professional and technical roles.

3. Barbados leads the way

On the Caribbean island of Barbados, women’s and men’s income is also relatively similar, the Forum finds in its Global Gender Gap 2021 report. Women earn about 86.8% of their male counterparts. Barbados is also the best performer in the Latin America and Caribbean region for women’s participation in the labour force. It has closed 93.5% of its gap in this area, with 75.2% of its women in work.

4. More gender pay laws

In its Women, Business and The Law 2021 report, the World Bank identifies the laws and regulations that restrict women’s economic opportunity in 190 economies. In 2019/20, it found that laws affecting women’s pay saw the most reforms. For example, Bahrain, Montenegro, Saudi Arabia and Viet Nam eliminated restrictions on women working in jobs previously deemed dangerous for women.

Laws in 88 economies restrict the jobs and hours that women can work.
Laws in 88 economies restrict the jobs and hours that women can work. Image: World Bank

What's the World Economic Forum doing about the gender gap?

5. Pay for parents

Five economies made reforms to laws affecting women’s work after having children, the World Bank found. For example, Ethiopia increased paid maternity leave from 90 to 120 days. It also guaranteed the right to three days of paid paternity leave for the first time. Suriname, one of the smallest countries in South America, was previously one of only six economies worldwide without any form of paid leave for new parents. It has now introduced 16 weeks of paid maternity leave and eight days of paid paternity leave.

6. More work to be done

Despite good progress, much more needs to be done. The World Bank notes that equal pay for work of equal value is only mandated in fewer than half of economies worldwide (90 economies). And in 88 economies, laws restrict the jobs and hours that women can work, affecting 1.6 billion women.

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Related topics:
Gender InequalityFuture of WorkFuture of Work
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