Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

These are the world's most gender-equal countries

Closing the gender gap offers numerous advantages to both society and the global economy.

Closing the gender gap offers numerous advantages to both society and the global economy. Image: Photo by KOBU Agency on Unsplash

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Education, Gender and Work

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  • The global gender gap will take until the year 2154 to close at current progress levels, according to the World Economic Forum’s latest report.
  • Nordic countries lead the world in eliminating gender inequality.
  • Iceland has been the world’s most gender-equal country for the past 14 years.
  • Parity in women’s labour force participation could increase economic output by more than a third, according to the IMF.

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a truly gender-equal world? The world may have to wait until the year 2154 for this to happen, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2023.

At current rates of progress, it will take 131 years to close the global gender gap, but some countries are much closer to achieving gender parity than others.

Nordic countries occupy 4 of the report’s top-5 list of countries with the smallest gender gap.

Iceland maintains its place at the top of the global ranking – for the 14th consecutive year – with more than 90% parity, followed by Norway (87.9%) up one place from 2022, and Finland (86.3%) drops one place to third.

Global Gender Gap Top 10 2023
This year's 10 from the Global Gender Gap report. Image: World Economic Forum

The rest of the top-10 list remains relatively unchanged, but there are one or two notable exceptions. Germany climbed four places to 6th, and both Lithuania and Belgium entered the top-10 list, replacing Rwanda and Ireland who dropped out.

The gender gap has improved in some areas…

Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and North America are the top three gender gap performers. But Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa have shown the most overall improvement since the report’s first edition in 2006.

Infographic discussing the progress on the global gender gap.
It will take 131 years to close the global gender gap at current rates. Image: World Economic Forum

And while the overall gender gap has returned to its 2019 pre-COVID-19 levels at 68.6% parity, the rate of change has not increased year on year.

The report compares rates of participation for women with those for men across four sectors: economic participation and opportunity; health and survival; educational attainment; and political empowerment. A score of 1 indicates full parity and the gender gap is the percentage distance from full parity, so the higher the percentage score the smaller the gender gap within that country.

Figure showing the percentage of the gender gap closed to date, 2023.
Health and education have seen gender gap improvements in 2023. Image: World Economic Forum

The health and education sectors show some improvement from last year, with current rates set to close the education gender gap in 16 years. Political empowerment has also improved slightly, but there is a long way to go before the gap disappears.

Meanwhile, economic participation and opportunity has decreased, with the gender gap set to take 169 years to close at current rates.


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

The benefits of eliminating cultural bias

Decades of cultural bias and inequality have hindered improvements in global gender equality, according to United Nations research. As such, the world is unlikely to achieve the UN target of gender parity by 2030.

Closing the gender gap brings numerous benefits to society and the global economy.

For example, parity in women’s labour force participation could increase economic output by more than a third on average, according to the International Monetary Fund.

While the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says that gender-based discrimination in social institutions costs the global economy $6 trillion or 7.5% of global GDP.

The latest analysis from the UN Development Programme’s Gender Social Norms Index, which covers 85% of the global population, shows almost 90% of men and women hold fundamental biases against women.

"We need to change the gender biases, the social norms, but the ultimate goal is to change the power relations between women and men, between people," Aroa Santiago, gender specialist in inclusive economies at UNDP, told Reuters.

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