Full report
Published: 16 December 2019

Global Gender Gap Report 2020

The Global Gender Gap Index 2020

The Global Gender Gap Index was first introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006 as a framework for capturing the magnitude of gender-based disparities and tracking their progress over time. The index benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, education, health and political criteria (see Figure 1), and provides country rankings that allow for effective comparisons across regions and income groups. The rankings are designed to create global awareness of the challenges posed by gender gaps and the opportunities created by reducing them. The methodology and quantitative analysis behind the rankings are intended to serve as a basis for designing effective measures for reducing gender gaps.

This year’s 14th edition continues to build on the well-established methodology. While it would be important to measure differences in opportunities and conditions across the full spectrum of gender identities, data availability limits the possibility to convert these aspirations into statistical measurement. As such, the index and the analysis remain focused on benchmarking progress on disparities between women and men across the four dimensions mentioned above.

This chapter presents the 2020 rankings, trends in both overall scores and subindex scores, as well as performances across regions. Chapter 2 presents the results of the analysis based on new data showing gender gaps in emerging jobs, conducted in collaboration with LinkedIn.

Figure 1: The Global Gender Gap Index framework

Country Coverage, 2020

Every year, in an effort to draw a complete picture of the global gender gap, we aim to cover as many countries as possible, within data availability constraints. To be included, a country must have data available for a minimum of 12 indicators out of the 14 that compose the index. In this edition, we have been able further increase the number of countries included in the ranking and the analysis, reaching 153 countries. Two countries (Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu) enter the index for the first time ever, while Trinidad and Tobago and Zambia are re-instated. Of the 153 countries, 107 have consistently been included in the index every year since the first edition, published in 2006.

The Global Gender Gap Report groups countries into eight broad geographical groupings: East Asia and the Pacific; Eastern Europe and Central Asia; Latin America and the Caribbean; Middle East and North Africa; North America; South Asia; Sub-Saharan Africa; and Western Europe. The classification of countries according to these categories is detailed in Appendix A.

Global Results

In 2020, the Global Gender Gap score (based on the population-weighted average) stands at 68.6%. This means that, on average, the gap is narrower, and the remaining gap to close is now 31.4%.

This year the progress has not only been larger than in the previous edition, but also more widespread: out of the 149 countries and economies covered both this year and last year, 101 have improved their score and 48 have seen their performance unchanged or reduced. In fact, the top 10th percentile consists of 16 countries that have improved their score by more than 3.3% year-on-year.

Table 1 shows the 2020 Global Gender Gap rankings and the score of all 153 countries covered by this year’s report. No country to date has yet achieved full gender parity. All the top five countries have closed at least 80% of their gaps, and the best performer (Iceland) has closed 82% of its gap so far.

The global top ten features four Nordic countries (Iceland, 1st, Norway 2nd, Finland 3rd and Sweden 4th), one Latin American country (Nicaragua, 5th), one country from the East Asia and the Pacific region (New Zealand, 6th), three other countries from Western Europe (Ireland, 7th, Spain, 8th and Germany, 10th) and one country from Sub-Saharan Africa (Rwanda, 9th).

Table 1: The Global Gender Gap Index 2020 rankings

Performance by Subindex

The overall gender gap performance is a synthesis of performances across the four dimensions composing the index—the Economic Participation, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival and Political Empowerment subindexes. As such it masks significant differences in gender gaps across dimensions. Overall, this year’s positive result has been driven mainly by a progress on the Political Empowerment subindex, as well as by marginal improvements on the Health and Survival and Educational Attainment subindexes. Conversely, the progress towards gender parity in terms of Economic Participation and Opportunity registers a retraction.

Figure 2: The state of the gender gaps

As shown in Figure 2, global gender gaps vary significantly across these four dimensions. In two subindexes—Educational Attainment and Health and Survival—96.1% and 95.7% of the gap (respectively) have already been closed so far. By contrast, differences between women and men remain significantly larger on Political Empowerment, where only 24.7% of the gap has been closed to date, and on Economic Participation and Opportunity, where 58.8% of the gap has been closed. In order of gender gap size, Political Empowerment is the area where women are severely under-represented. Despite a significant improvement from the last edition (see section below for more details), so far only 25% of the gap has been closed on this subindex, and no country has fully closed this gap yet. Iceland—with approximately 70% of its Political Empowerment gap closed—is the country where the presence of women across parliament, ministries and heads of states is the most widespread compared to all other countries assessed by the index. Iceland’s score is 10 percentage points higher than the second-ranked Norway and is almost four times higher than the global average.

The fact that only a handful of countries have closed at least 50% of their Political Empowerment gaps demonstrates how, globally, women’s presence and participation in politics is still extremely limited. For instance, considering the sum of the seats of all parliaments of the 153 countries covered by the index, only 25% of these 35,127 global seats are occupied by women. In as many as 45 of the 153 countries women take less than 20% of the seats available, and in two countries (Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea) there are no women.

When examining higher-level institutional roles the presence of women grows even thinner. Only 21% of the 3,343 ministers are women, and there are 32 countries where women represent less than 10% of ministers in office today. Among these countries, in Azerbaijan, Belize, Brunei Darussalam, Iraq, Lithuania, Saudi Arabia, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea and Thailand, there are no women ministers at all.

Further, considering head of states over the past 50 years, in 85 of the 153 countries covered by this report there has never been a woman in charge. This accounts for 56% of the countries covered, and, notably, includes emerging and advanced economies such as Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the United States.

The second dimension where the gender gap is widest globally is the one measured by the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex. Here, only 58% of the gap has been closed so far, and it has slightly widened since last year (see Progress Over Time section). The dispersion between the best performing countries and those at the bottom of the ranking is substantial. While the top 10 countries have closed at least 80% of the gap, the bottom 10 countries have only closed 40% of the gap between men and women in the workplace.

Among the 10 best performers on this subindex (see Table 2 below), four are from Sub-Saharan African (Benin has closed so far 84.7% of its Economic Participation and Opportunity gap; Burundi 83.7%; Zambia, 83.1% and Guinea, 80.3%); one is from Western Europe (Iceland, 83.9%); one is from the East Asia and the Pacific region (Lao PDR, 83.9%); two are from Eastern Europe and Central Asia (Belarus, 83.7%, and Latvia, 81.0%); and two are from the Latin America and the Caribbean region (Bahamas, 83.8%, and Barbados 80.8%). At the other end of the spectrum, economic opportunities for women are extremely limited in India (35.4%), Pakistan (32.7%), Yemen (27.3%), Syria (24.9%) and Iraq (22.7%).

The fact that women are persistently less present in the labour market than men contributes to the Economic Participation and Opportunity gap. On average about 78% of adult men (15–64) are in the labour force, while only 55% of women of the same cohort are actively engaged in the labour market. This means that over 30% of the global labour force participation gender gap has yet to be closed.

Further, within the labour market, gender gaps tend to widen together with seniority level. Globally, 36% of senior private sector’s managers and public sector’s officials are women, while the presence of women on corporate boards or as top business leaders is even more limited: only 18.2%1 of firms globally are led by a woman, and on average, 22.3% of board members in OECD countries are women2 with an even lower representation in emerging economies (e.g. 9.7% in China and 13.8% in India).

Financial disparities also remain important. On average, over 40% of the wage gap (the ratio of the wage of woman to that of a man in a similar position) and over 50% of the income gap (the ratio of the total wage and non-wage income of women to that of men) are still to be bridged. These figures highlight how, not only that women in similar positions as men (for seniority and skill levels) are still paid less, but also that income disparities are larger than wage gaps. This difference is due partially to that fact that women encounter challenges to get to senior roles and/or to be employed in high-reward segments of the economy.3 However, a second part of the story is that women are less likely than men to obtain revenues from non-employment activities (i.e. from financial investment, entrepreneurship) where financial gains are substantially higher.

In many countries, women are significantly disadvantaged in accessing credit, land or financial products which prevent them starting a company or making a living by managing financial assets. For instance, there are still 72 countries (among those 153 covered by this report) where at least some women from specific social groups do not have the right to open a bank account or obtain credit, and 25 countries where not all women have full inheritance rights.4

Figure 3: Economic participation and time spent in unpaid domestic work

A further underlying aspect that contributes to financial disparities between women and men as well as overall economic participation and opportunities gaps worldwide is the disproportionate burden of household and care responsibilities that women continue to carry compared to men almost everywhere. In no country in the world is the amount of time spent by men on unpaid work (mainly domestic and volunteer work) equal to that of women; and in many countries, women still spend multiple-folds as much time than men on these activities. Even in countries where this ratio is lowest (i.e. Norway or the United States) women spend almost twice as much time as men on unpaid domestic work. As shown by Figure 3, the dedication of women to these activities is not only due to overall standards of living: even in advanced economies such as Japan the share of time that women spend is more than four times that of men. Across advanced and developing countries there is a negative relationship between women’s relative amount of time they spend on unpaid domestic work and economic participation and opportunity gender gaps. While this analysis is partial, it suggests that in addition to ongoing cultural and social transformations that require a long time to occur, policies that offer cost- and time-effective solutions to house-care needs (i.e. kinder-gardens within a company) or change the incentives for men and women to rebalance the burden of household and care duties (i.e. paternity leave) are likely to have a significant impact on women’s career opportunities.

The third-ranked gender gap dimension is Educational Attainment, where 96.1% of the gap has been closed so far, and therefore it is at a significantly more advanced stage than the level achieved in terms of Economic Participation and Political Empowerment.

Thirty-five countries have already achieved full parity on this subindex, and all regions feature at least one country that has completely closed this gap: nine are in Western Europe, another nine are in Latin America, eight are located in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region, three in Sub-Saharan Africa, two from East Asia and the Pacific, two from North America, and one each in South Asia and Middle East and North Africa. Further, 120 countries have closed at least 95% of their educational gender gaps. On the other hand, eight countries have yet to close more than 20% of their gaps: Togo (77.8%); Angola (75.9%); Mali (75.7%); Benin (73.3%); Yemen (71.7%); Guinea (68.0%); Congo, Democratic Rep. (65.8%); Chad (58.9%).

As in past editions, the gap varies across levels of education. Gender gaps in literacy and basic skills are somewhat wider than those in higher levels of education: 90.4% of girls and 92.9% of boys aged 15–24 in the world are literate, and 88.2% of girls in the world were enrolled in primary education in 2018, versus 90.5% of boys.5 While these figures highlight a persistent gap at the entry-level of education, it is also important to underscore that there are still over 10% of both boys and girls who are left behind, therefore making sure that all children receive at least a basic education is as important as closing gender gaps in this dimension.

At higher levels of education, though parity across gender is more common, participation is still relatively low for both sexes: only approximately 66% of boys and girls are enrolled in secondary education.6 At tertiary education levels, women have surpassed men, but still only 40.6% of young women and 35.6% of young men who have graduated from high school globally are attending university.7 Moreover, while progress has been made to achieve gender parity, more has to be done to equip new generations, especially in developing countries, with the skills to succeed in tomorrow’s reality. In this respect, increasing formal education attainment is necessary but not sufficient to provide young men and women graduating from every level of education with the type of skills demanded by the job market in the Fourth Industrial Revolution era. Here, skills gaps remain—in terms of demand versus both supply and gender. While these types of gender gaps are becoming increasingly important, they are currently not systematically tracked by national statistics. To shed light on these new dynamics, Chapter 2 offers a deep dive into gender gaps in emerging jobs and the related skills required for those jobs.

The subindex where the average gender gap is the smallest is Health and Survival, where 95.7% of the global gap has been closed so far. Forty-eight countries have achieved near-parity, the next 71 countries have closed at least 97% of the gap, and only nine countries have yet to close more than 4% of their gap. Among the third group, four large countries–Pakistan (94.6%); India (94.4%); Viet Nam (94.2%) and China (92.6%)–trail behind, which means that millions of women in these and other countries are not yet granted the same access to health as men.

Performance on some of the specific components of this subindex shows that these results are driven by gender differences at birth. In six countries (Azerbaijan, Armenia, China, India, Pakistan and Viet Nam) the ratio is below 92%, and in China the ratio is as low as 88.5%. These examples underscore the issue of “missing women” and gender-specific gaps on access to healthcare. In most other countries, however, gender parity on sex ratio at birth has been nearly achieved: in 128 countries, the share of girls is at the natural 94% birth level, and in almost all other countries is above 92%.

Parity has also been essentially achieved in all countries in terms of life expectancy. Women tend to live longer in all countries, except Kuwait, Bhutan and Bahrain, where the ratio is above 99%.

Figure 4: Range of scores, Global Gender Gap Index and subindexes, 2020

An overview of the global distribution of subindex performances described above is presented in Figure 4. It illustrates the range of country scores for the four subindexes. The population-weighted average for each subindex is represented with diamonds. Countries’ performances are distributed unevenly among the gender gap index and the underlying subindexes. Overall, gender gap scores are clustered around the average score (69%), with a greater concentration of countries slightly above the average. The distribution is much more dispersed within the Economic Opportunity and Participation subindex, where country scores range between 23% and 85%, and most countries score somewhat above the global population-weighted average. The fact that populous countries such as India and Mexico perform below average contributes to reducing the global average result. The distribution of scores on the Educational Attainment subindex ranges from 59% to 100%. On the Health and Survival subindex countries cluster around an even more concentrated set of values between 93% and 98%, with few outliers performing below 96%. The Political Empowerment subindex is the area where country performance is the most diverse and varied, with scores between 0% and 70%, and a stronger concentration towards the lower half of the distribution.

Table 2: The Global Gender Gap Index rankings by subindex, 2020

Progress over Time

Since 2006, the Global Gender Gap Report has tracked progress in closing gender gaps. Each year, the rate of change can estimate the time required to close the divide between women and men in employment, education, health and politics.

Figure 5: Evolution of the Global Gender Gap Index and its subindexes over time

Figure 5 charts the evolution of the Global Gender Gap Index and its subindexes since the report’s first edition in 2006. Overall, the gender gap has reduced by 0.6 percentage points since 2018 and by a compounded 4 percentage points since 2006 (or an average of almost 0.3 points a year). All things being equal, with current trends, the overall global gender gap can be closed in 99.5 years. This is almost 10 years less than reported in the last edition and is mainly driven by faster progress in the political empowerment dimension.

The Political Empowerment gender gap globally improves to a score of 24.7%, which is 1.8 percentage points higher than last year and represents the most significant improvement since 2006. On average, this dimension has improved by 0.75 points every year. Should progress continue at the same rate, it will take 95 years to close this gap, a much more positive outlook than the 107 years registered by last year’s assessment.

While, on average, all the indicators composing this subindex register an improvement this year, there has been a particular strong increase in the number of women in terms of ministerial positions in 2019. Although the number of women ministers remains low, this progress will hopefully contribute to generating a more women-friendly environment in political parties and institutions while setting role models for the private sector as well.

Conversely, the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex gap has widened slightly and is the only subindex that has regressed this year. The global 2020 score (57.8%) is 0.35 percentage points lower than last year, but it is still better than it was 14 years ago. On average, the economic gender gap has closed by 0.15 percentage points every year over the 2006–2019 period. This progress is certainly too slow. At this rate, it will take 257 years to close this gap. This shows that while the time required to close the overall gender gap averages out the progresses across all four dimensions tracked by the Global Gender Gap Index, it may take an even longer time to ensure full gender parity is achieved across all dimensions.

Within this subindex, generally positive trends in share of women among skilled workers and senior officials are counterbalanced by stagnating or reversing gaps in labour market participation and monetary rewards. When it comes to wage gaps, the negative trend is mostly explained by diverging regional trends rather than by a common direction across all countries. As analysed in Box 1, while in OECD countries wage gaps over the past decade are on a declining trend, they are widening in emerging and developing economies. The global declining trend is therefore due to the fact that widening gaps in emerging and developing economies have outweighed the progresses made by OECD countries.

Closing gender gaps in the remaining two subindexes is likely to happen much sooner. On current trends, the Educational Attainment gender gap can be fully closed in just 12 years. Global performance is virtually unchanged since last year and remains above 96% or less than 4% from full parity. To achieve a perfect 100%, it will still require some institutional and cultural changes that would improve participation of both men and women in higher education in the countries where there is still unequal access to school.

The time it would take to close the Health and Survival gender gap remains undefined. It is the smallest gap and has remained substantially stable over the years and can be considered virtually closed in most countries. However, it won’t be fully closed as long as specific issues remain in some of the most populous countries (e.g. China and India).

Performance by Region

Figure 6 provides a snapshot of the regional average gender gap closed so far. In 2020, four regions have closed at least 71% of their gaps. Western Europe is once again the region where the gender gap is smallest (76.7%), placing it ahead of North America, which has closed 72.9% of its gap, Latin America and the Caribbean (72.1%), and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (71.5%). The East Asia and the Pacific region (68.5%) is just ahead of Sub-Saharan Africa (68.0%), while South Asia has closed 66.1% of its gap and is ahead of the Middle East and North Africa, the region with the lowest performance (61.1%). The reader should note that population-weighted group averages are used throughout the report.

Figure 6: Gender gap closed to date by region, 2020

Figure 7: Evolution of the Global Gender Gap Index by region over time

Evolution in scores, 2006-2020

Progress towards gender parity is proceeding at different speeds across the eight geographic areas benchmarked by this report. Figure 7 tracks the evolution of the overall index since 2006 by region. It highlights the local progress towards gender parity made over the past decade in East Asia and the Pacific, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, North America, Western Europe, South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and North Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean. All regions have reduced their gender gaps by at least three decimal points this year.

The two most improved regions this year are Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, which have both reduced their gaps by 1.4 percentage points, followed by Western Europe (gap reduced by 0.9 percentage points). All other regions improve at a slower rate (gaps have been reduced by 0.6 points or less).

The performances of Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America have been driven by a significant reduction of political empowerment gaps (+4.3 and +5.0 points, respectively, compared to the 2018 edition). While six of the eight regions have improved their Political Empowerment subindex scores, the progress of these two regions are the most significant in this edition of report, and among the most remarkable year-on-year improvements in this subindex since 2012. In contrast, Political Empowerment in East Asia and the Pacific is regressing, marking the only negative trend in this subindex across all regions.

Progress in Economic Participation and Opportunity across regions is more mixed. Only one region improves by more than 1 percentage point (Middle East and North Africa, which began from a low base, 43%); while in two regions (North America and South Asia) gender gaps in this subindex are marginally wider than they were in the previous assessment, and in all other regions there is virtually no change on this aspect.

In terms of the Educational Attainment and Health and Survival subindexes, most regions register similar scores to those reported in the last edition. However, both East Asia and the Pacific and Sub-Saharan Africa have reduced educational gender gaps by about 1 percentage point.

Figure 8: Regional performance 2020, by subindex

Breaking down regional results by subindex reveals further differences across geographies (see Figure 8). Overall, three facts stand out from this analysis. First, while political empowerment has improved significantly in many regions, it is still the area with the largest gender gap in all regions. It is particularly low in the Middle East and North Africa, where only 10% of the gap has been closed, as well as in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (15%), East Asia and the Pacific (16%) and North America (18%). On the other hand, Western Europe is the region where progress towards gender parity in politics is the most advanced, as 41% of the gap has been closed. However, much still needs to be done to advance women’s political participation even in this region.

Second, Health and Survival and Educational Attainment gaps are, as discussed above, relatively small across all regions. Third, Economic Participation and Opportunity is the subindex where gender gaps vary the most across regions. In North America and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 76% and 73% of the gaps have been closed so far, while South Asia (37%) and Middle East and North Africa (43%) are the regions where women are the most disadvantaged in the workplace.

While these conclusions can be drawn from the direct comparison of regional subindex aggregates, analysing country performances within each region brings to light a more complex reality.

As introduced above, the East Asia and the Pacific region has closed 68.5% of the overall gender gap. Since 2006 its progress towards gender parity has been very slow with a mere 2.5 percentage point gain. It represents the second-smallest gain over the period, after North America, but the gender gap itself in this region is considerably narrower. If the region maintains the same rate of improvement as the 2006–2019 period, and given the current gap, it will take another 163 years to close the gender gap, the most time of any region (see Figure 6). And though it is eight years shorter than what was predicted in the previous edition of the index, thanks to a small gain of 0.3 percentage points, this duration is three times longer than what is predicted for Western Europe (54 years).

This lacklustre performance is particularly concerning considering the region is home to 1.13 billion women, the most of any region. In China (score of 67.6%, 106th) alone, there are almost 700 billion women still facing major barriers to economic and political advancement. In such a vast and culturally and economically diverse region, averages necessarily conceal large differences among countries. With an overall score of 79.9%, New Zealand features among the top 10 nations globally and leads the region ahead of the Philippines (78.1%, 16th). Papua New Guinea, covered for the first time, is the region’s worst performer with a score of 63.5% (127th globally).

Similar to all regions, Political Empowerment (one of the four subindexes of the Global Gender Gap Index) is where the region performs the worst by far (see Figure 8). But unlike all the other regions, the East Asia and Pacific region is where the performance has deteriorated since last year. With only 15.9% of the gap closed, the region is on par with Eastern Europe and Central Asia (15.0%) and just ahead of the Middle East (10.2%), while 25 percentage points behind Western Europe. Only four of the region’s 20 countries studied have a score above 20%, including New Zealand (47.4%, 13th globally), while four countries from the region rank among the worst 10 performers, including Japan (4.9%, 144th) and Brunei Darussalam (3.1%, 148th), while Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu rank last in the world, with a score of 0. This means that, in either country, there has never been a female head of state in the past 50 years, and there is currently no woman in parliament or in ministerial positions.

The region has closed two-thirds of its economic gender gap, posting a small gain compared with last year. Based on the rate of progress between 2006 and 2019, it will take approximately another 100 years to close the gap. The region’s best performing country in this subindex, Lao PDR, ranks 2nd globally with a score of 83.9%, on par with Iceland and just behind Benin (84.7%).

The region has closed 94% of the gender gap in terms of health and survival, but it remains the worst-performing of all regions and has made no progress since 2006. Since regional averages are weighted by population, the poor performances of China and, to a lesser extent, of Viet Nam (last and 151st, respectively, out of 153 countries in this subindex) contribute significantly to this result. The two countries have, respectively, the lowest and the third-lowest female/male ratio at birth, with approximately 90 girls born for every 100 boys. The global average stands at 94 girls for every 100 boys. The region’s performance in terms of healthy life expectancy is in line with other regions: on average, women consistently outlive mean by a few years—specifically, by 1.3 years in China and by as many as 6.9 years in Mongolia.

Finally, Educational Attainment is the subindex where the region is the closest to parity, with 98% of the gap closed to date. There is virtual parity (score of 99% or more) in nine of the 20 countries of the region. The region’s worst performer, Papua New Guinea, has closed 90% of its educational gender gap (132nd).

The Eastern Europe and Central Asia region has closed 71.5% of its gender gap so far, yet the five points that separate this region from Western Europe (the region where the average gaps are the narrowest) represent a significant difference. Globally, on average, progress towards gender parity have been as slow as 0.3 percentage points per year; and if the Eastern Europe and Central Asia will close its gap at this average rate it may take almost 20 years for this region to catch up with today’s Western Europe performance. To date, the time to fully close its overall gender gap is estimated to be 107 years.

Overall, gender gaps across Eastern Europe and Central Asia are relatively evenly distributed: 21 of the 26 countries in this region have closed at least 70% and the top-ranked country (Latvia 78.5%) is 16 percentage points higher than the lowest-positioned Tajikistan (62.6%), which is a significantly smaller difference than that observed in any other region. Most of the countries in this region (18 out of 26) have improved performances since last year, while eight have decreased their overall scores or remained stagnant.

Gender gaps are small across all countries in terms of Educational Attainment (above 94%) and Health and Survival, where all but three countries (Albania, Armenia and Azerbaijan) have closed at least 97% of this gap.

In terms of Economic Participation and Opportunity, thanks to a high participation of women in the labour force (74.7%) and a remarkable high share of women in senior roles (47%), Belarus achieves the best subindex performance (83.7%), which is 34.1 percentage points higher than Tajikistan’s (49.6%), and 22.4 percentage points higher than the second-worst performer, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Women’s participation in the labour force is generally high in many countries of the region. Consequently, gender gaps yet to be closed in this dimension are 20% or lower in 18 of the 26 countries in this region. Notably, in both Lithuania and Latvia, over 74% of women are in the labour market, which translates into 4% and 6% of gaps yet to close, respectively.

Two additional positive aspects characterize this region: first, the share of women among senior officials is relatively high. In five countries (Belarus, Latvia, Georgia, Poland and Russian Federation) at least 40% of these senior roles are women, and in another 10 countries, women who are senior officials are above 35%. Second—and possibly related to the high participation of women in the labour force—a few countries demonstrate relatively low differences in income between genders, including Slovenia (80.9%), Lithuania (76.3%) and Moldova (74.9%).

In contrast, Political Empowerment is weak in most countries of the region. The best regional performer is Albania, which has closed only 37.6% of its gap, although this is over 30 percentage points ahead of the lowest performer, Azerbaijan (which has only closed only 6.3 percent of this gap).

The Latin America and the Caribbean region has closed 72.1% of its gender gap so far, progressing 1 percentage point since last year. At this rate it will take 59 years to close the gender gap.

All countries in the region fall into a 13.8% range between the best performer Nicaragua (80.4%) and the lowest-performing Guatemala (66.6%). Among the 24 countries covered in both the 2018 and 2020 editions, 15 countries have improved their overall scores and nine have registered a stagnant performance or reversal since last year. Among the most improved countries, Mexico reduced its gender gap by 3.4 points on a year-over-year basis.

Looking at the four subindexes, all countries are well positioned in terms of Health and Survival, where 13 countries have achieved full gender parity, and even the least-performing country in the region (Suriname) has closed almost 97% of its gender gap. Similarly, gender parity in Educational Attainment is complete in 11 countries, and is above 96.7% in all other countries, including the least-performing (Guatemala).

Regional performances on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, however, vary within a wider range (26.4 percentage points) between the score of the Bahamas (83.8%) and that of Mexico (57.4%), which, despite a remarkable improvement in other dimensions, has not improved its gap over the past three years. In fact, Mexico attains the second-lowest labour force participation of women in the region after Guatemala. Only 47% of Mexican women are in the labour market, corresponding to a ratio between women and men of 57%. In Guatemala, 43% of women are actively engaged in the labour market, corresponding to a ratio of 49.5% relative to men’s participation. In other large economies in the region women are relatively more active: in Brazil and Colombia over 60% of women are in the labour market and in Argentina, 57%. However, only one country (Barbados) is close to achieving gender parity in labour force participation, as 75% of the women and 80% of men are in the labour market today.

Among women already in the labour force, in many countries they are as equally engaged in professional and technical professions as men: in 11 countries at least 98% of the gap has been closed already, and only in one country (Cuba) is the gap still large (38.4%). Differences among countries are more marked when it comes to senior roles. In some countries gender parity has been achieved (namely, Colombia, Bahamas, Honduras and Jamaica), yet three countries (Argentina, Peru and Chile) are still halfway from achieving gender parity in this aspect. Similarly, income disparities among genders remain wide: four countries (Argentina, Guatemala, Suriname and Mexico) have closed between 46% and 50% of their income gender gap so far, and even the best performer, Nicaragua, has yet to close over 32% of its gap.

Political empowerment gaps are also large in many countries of the region. However, recent fast progress in Costa Rica and Mexico has allowed these countries to join Nicaragua as the group of countries that has closed at least 46% of the gap on this subindex. Other countries have progressed at a fast pace on this dimension this year: Colombia, notably, has closed 31.8% of its gap versus 20.3% in the previous assessment, and another six countries have doubled their scores since 2018 but remain below the 30% level. Moreover, in 2019 there were almost 50% of women among parliament members in Bolivia, Cuba and Mexico, and at least 50% of women among ministers in Colombia, Costa Rica and Nicaragua.

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has the lowest score (61.1%) of all regions in the Global Gender Gap Index. The gap has narrowed by 0.5 percentage points since last year and by 3.6 points since 2006. Assuming the same rate of progress going forward, it will take approximately 150 years to close the gender gap in the MENA region, 15 years shorter than what was predicted last year. For now, many women in the region continue to face limitations of basic rights, including for divorce, inheritance, asset ownership, access to justice and freedom of movement.

The best-performing country, Israel, attains a middle position in ranking (64th ) on the overall index. The other 18 countries in the region rank below 100. The second-best performer is the United Arab Emirates at 120th, followed by Kuwait (122nd) and Tunisia (124th). Seven of the 10 countries with the largest gender gaps in the world are from the MENA region, including Iraq and Yemen, which are, respectively, penultimate and last in the ranking of 153 countries.

The MENA region has essentially closed the health gender gap, with an average score of 96.9% (maximum is 98.0). In all MENA countries except in Bahrain and Kuwait, women live longer than men on average. The educational gender gap of the region is extremely narrow, with a score of 98.0 (maximum of 1). However, serious gender imbalances persist in some countries when it comes to literacy. In Yemen, only 35% of women are literate, compared with 73% of men.8 In Mauritania and Morocco, the differential is approximately 20 percentage points. While the situation is by and large satisfactory in terms of health outcomes and educational attainment, the gender gap is cavernous in the remaining two categories.

The region’s average score on the Political Empowerment subindex is 10.2%, the worst performance among all regions and four times worse than the Western European average. It must be noted, however, that the average has almost trebled since 2006, when the score was 3.5%. Three-quarters of MENA countries rank beyond the 100th mark in this subindex. Women are almost absent of political life in Oman (2.1%, 150th) and Yemen (1.9%, 151st). There has been no female head of state in the last 50 years in 17 of the 19 MENA countries studied. Only Israel and Turkey have had a female head of state (for 5.7 and 2.7 years, respectively). The average female representation in parliament is 15%, the lowest share of all regions.

Finally, the economic gender gap runs deep. MENA labour markets are generally characterized by low female participation and discrimination against women, with dire consequences on economic growth, social cohesion and social mobility. The regional average score on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex is 42.5%, the second-lowest mark after South Asia (36.5%). In 16 countries, less than half of women participate in the labour force. The rate is even below 20% in six countries, including in Yemen, where the female participation rate of 6.3% is the lowest in the world. Furthermore, the estimated earned income of women is on average 28% of what men earn. In six countries the ratio is less than one-fifth.

The South Asia region has closed two-thirds of its gender gap. The region is home to 860 million women, three-fourths of whom live in India. Among the eight regions of the world, South Asia’s gender gap is the second-largest after the MENA region, where only 61% of the gender gap has been closed. Since 2006, South Asia is the region that has progressed the most, gaining six percentage points. If the rate of progress of the past 15 years was to continue—a very strong hypothesis indeed—it will take 71 years to close the region’s gender gap.

Reflecting the magnitude of the challenge when it comes to gender parity, Bangladesh (overall score of 72.6%) is the only one of the seven South Asian countries studied to feature in the top 100 of the Global Gender Gap Index (see Table 1). India ranks 112th (66.8%) and Pakistan (56.4%) is antepenultimate, only ahead of Iraq and Yemen.

The performance of South Asia across the four main areas of the Global Gender Gap Index is one of stark contrasts. With a score of 38.7% on the Political Empowerment subindex, the region is on par with the leading region, Western Europe (40.9). The score is four times better that of the MENA region (10.2), which otherwise has a very similar profile to South Asia in the other three subindexes. The performance is also helped by the fact that Bangladesh (1st), India (4th), and Sri Lanka (9th) are among the 10 countries with the most years with a female head of state in the past 50 years. Indeed, Bangladesh is the only country in the world where that number exceeds the number of years with a male head of state (25.6 compared with 24.4). In terms of female representation in parliament and in cabinets, however, South Asia’s performance is largely in line with other emerging regions. For example, women represent 20% or less of the parliament in six of the seven countries studied, the only exception being Sri Lanka (33%, 34th).

In fact, South Asia is the only region that scores better on the Political and Empowerment subindex than on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, where South Asia has only bridged 37% of its gender gap. The region ranks last in this dimension, notably standing 6 percentage points behind the MENA region and almost 40 points behind North America. The situation has been deteriorating steadily, from a peak at 45% in 2012, and the gender gap is now significantly wider than in 2006.

South Asia has made significant strides in narrowing its educational gender gap. In 2006, the gap stood at almost 20%, the largest of all regions. Since then, the gap has narrowed to 6%. Female attainment at all education levels is generally on par, or at times better than for men across the region—but absolute attainment levels for both sexes remain generally low. The main issue is gender differences in literacy rate. In India, 66% of women are literate compared with 82% of men. Pakistan’s literacy rates are 46% and 71%, respectively.

Among the four areas the index looks at, health and survival is where the South Asia’s gender gap is the narrowest, with a score of 94.7%, even though the region has stagnated since 2006. Women enjoy a longer healthy life expectancy than men do, except in Bhutan. The performance continues to be undermined by the abnormally low sex ratios at birth in India (91 girls for every 100 boys) and Pakistan (92 girls for every 100 boys).

Sub-Saharan Africa has closed 68.0% of its gender gap so far. This result is significant progress since the last edition of the report, which leads to a decline in the number of years it will take to close the gender gap, now estimated at 95. Performances are widespread in this region between the best performer, Rwanda (which has so far closed 79.1% of its gap), and Congo, DRC (57.8%). Among the 33 countries covered in both the 2018 and 2020 editions, 21 countries have improved their scores and 12 have regressed since last year. Seven of the 33 have narrowed their gender gap by more than 2 percentage points; the most improved country (Ethiopia) has reduced almost 5 percentage points of its gap in one year and has currently closed 70.5% of its overall gender gap.

Notably, seven countries (Madagascar, Ghana, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Liberia and Mali) have reduced their Educational Attainment gap between 1.5 and 4.7 percentage points. However, three countries (Guinea, Congo DRC and Chad) where the educational gender gap is larger have registered a stagnant performance and have yet to close 32% and 40% of their gaps. On the other side of the spectrum, three countries have already achieved parity in education (Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia), and four have closed more than 98% of their gaps. Gender differences in education remain particularly large beyond elementary school. For instance, gender gaps in tertiary enrolment are as large as 81% in Chad, and over 50% in Ethiopia, Burundi, Benin, Guinea, Mali and Sierra Leone.

Gender parity in Health and Survival is relatively advanced in most countries of the region. All countries achieve full parity in terms of sex-ratio at birth; however, life expectancy remains low for both men and women in many countries. For instance, Guinea, the country with the largest gender gap on the Health and Survival subindex, has already closed 96.2% of this gap, yet women and men can expect to live only 52.2 and 52.1 years of healthy life, respectively.

Regional divides in Economic Participation and Opportunity gender parity are particularly stark in Sub-Saharan Africa. Benin, the best performer, has closed 84.7% of this gap while Cote d’Ivoire only 54.5%. Further, four of the five most improved on this subindex are from Sub-Saharan Africa (Cape Verde, Mali, Nigeria and Sierra Leone). However, the particularly strong performance of Benin reflects similarly low levels of income for both men and women, as well as no information on presence of women among senior positions and technical workers.

On average, labour participation of women is relatively high in most Sub-Saharan African countries. In Burundi, Guinea, Rwanda and Sierra Leone there are at least as many women as men in the labour market, and in Senegal, the lowest performer, at least 36% of the women are in the labour market.

In contrast, however, while there are many women in the labour force in most countries, senior roles are preponderantly still held my men. Only in Cameroon is the situation relatively advanced (49% of senior officials are women); while in most countries the share of women among senior officials varies between 30% and 14%.

Income and wage gender gaps are also large in most countries. In terms of wages, few countries (Burundi, Rwanda and Guinea and Gambia) have already closed at least 75% of their gaps, while Ethiopia and Lesotho have yet to close over 50% of their gaps.

Cross-country differences are even starkers in terms of income, where three countries (Burundi, Liberia and Zambia) have achieved gender parity (though granting low income levels to both men and women), while in two countries (Gambia and Ghana) gender gaps in income are as large as 65% and 68.9%.

In parallel to limited presence of women among senior officials, the presence of women in politics is also underwhelming in most countries. Rwanda (the only country with a 50% share of woman in parliament in the region) and South Africa have closed at least 50% of their political empowerment gender gaps to date, while 21 countries closed only between 20% and 30% of their gaps. Notably, there are few women in parliament in half of the countries in the region, including Nigeria, where only 3.4% of parliament members are women. Similarly, women in ministerial positions are between 18% and 8% across 15 economies. Rwanda, South Africa and Ethiopia are important positive exceptions, with more than 48% of women among their ministers.

The presence of women is even scarcer at the head-of state level; 24 countries of the 34 assessed have never had a woman as a head of state over the past 50 years.

Since 2006, Western Europe has been the best-performing region on the Global Gender Gap Index and the 2020 edition is no exception. With an average score of 76.7% (out of 100), the region has now closed 77% of its gender gap, up from 76% in the previous edition and 71% in 2001. If progress over the period 2006–2020 was to continue at the same pace, it will take 54 years to close the gap in Western Europe, seven years shorter that what had been predicted previously.

The region is home to the four most gender-equal countries in the world—in order, Iceland (87.7), Norway (84.2), Finland (83.2) and Sweden (82.0); seven of the top 10 (see country commentaries for top 10 countries below); and half of the top 20. Twenty-one of the 24 Western European countries studied feature in the top half of the overall rankings. The exceptions are Greece (84th), Malta (90th) and Cyprus (91st). Indeed, almost 20 percentage points separate Iceland from Cyprus.

With the educational and health gender gaps virtually closed across all countries in the region, all efforts are concentrated on the political and economic gender gaps. On the Political Empowerment subindex the region is the most advanced among all regions, but only 41% of the gender gap has been closed in this area. In terms of the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, Western Europe (69.3%) lags behind North America (75.6%) and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (73.2%).

Consequently, the size and evolution of the political and economic gender gaps are the two differentiating factors among Western European countries. For example, Iceland leads the Political Empowerment Category globally with a score of 70.2%, whereas Cyprus ranks 111th with a score of 11.2%, with female representation below 20% in the parliament and the cabinet. And while the score differential is smaller, Italy (59.6, 117th) trails Iceland (83.9, 2nd) by 115 places on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex.

Spain (79.5, 8th overall) jumps 21 places from the previous edition, largely as a result of the nomination in 2018 of the world’s most female-centric government where 65% of ministers are women. It is one of the only 10 governments in the world with a share of 50% or more. Austria (74.4, 34th) also leapfrogs 19 places thanks to significantly larger female representation in both the cabinet and the parliament. On the other hand, the Netherlands loses ground (73.6, 38th, down 11 places in the rankings) as a result of lower female political representation, which remains high by international standards.

The North America region groups the United States (72.4, 53rd) and Canada (77.2, 19th).9 In 2006, both Europe and North America had closed 71% of their gender gaps. Today, Europe has closed 77% and North America, 73%. As a result of this positive but much slower evolution, it is expected that it will take almost three times longer to close the gap in North America (151 years) than in Europe (54 years). Like Europe, North America has closed its educational and health gender gaps. The region boasts the smallest gap when it comes to economic participation and opportunities (having closed 76% of the gender gap in this area), but this figure has remained exactly the same since 2006. In Europe, the gap is larger at 30% but has been reduced by almost 10 points since 2006. It is in the area of political empowerment that offers most room for improvement in North America, where only 18% of the political gender gap has been closed. This is less than half that of Europe (41%) and also worse than in Latin America (27%), South Asia (39%) and Sub-Saharan Africa (21%). In Canada and the United States, women representation in congress hovers around 25%, approximately 10% below Western Europe’s average. And while Canada’s cabinet achieved gender parity in 2018, only 20% of ministerial positions in the United States were filled by women. In both countries, there has been no female head of state in the past 50 years (there was a female prime minister in Canada for four months in 1993).

Table 3: The Global Gender Gap Index rankings by region, 2020

Selected Country Performances

This section provides a short commentary for selected countries, namely, the 10 best performers (listed in rank order) in the overall Global Gender Gap index and the 15 most populous countries in the world (listed in alphabetical order). Together, they are home to approximately 2.4 billion women who account for 65% of the world’s female population.

Top 10

This year’s edition of the Global Gender Gap Index still sees four Nordic countries in the top four positions and two new entrants in the global top 10 list. All but three countries in the overall Index top 10 have closed at least 80% of their overall gender gap—the same as last year.

Iceland (1), once again the country where progress towards gender parity is the most advanced, has closed almost 88% of its gender gap, 3.5 percentage points ahead of the second-ranked Norway. It has closed both its Educational Attainment and Health and Survival gaps completely, and it remains the top performer in terms of Political Empowerment, mainly thanks to long tenures of women as head of the country (over the past 50 years, 22 had a woman as the country leader) but also thanks to significant representation of women in parliament (38.1%) and among ministers (40%). Further, Iceland attains the second-best performance on Economic Participation and Opportunity, where it continues to improve. In fact, not only are 85.8% of women in the labour market (17th) but they can often achieve senior and managerial roles (41.5% of senior officials are women, ranking 21st). In addition, women are 43% of companies board members, and the country achieves these results with a significantly less generous policy towards parental leave than other Nordic countries (for instance, women receive only 68% of their gross salary during maternity leave while in Norway it is 94%; in Sweden, 77.6%; and in France, 90%. Nonetheless, income and wage gaps are still open and will require further efforts to achieve parity on these aspects as well.

Norway (2) maintains its position and further reduces its gender gap. Norway has by now closed 84.2% of its overall gender gap, almost 1 percentage point more than reported last year. The country has already completely closed its Educational Attainment and Health and Survival gaps, while the Economic Participation and Opportunity and Political Empowerment gaps are 79.8% and 59.8% closed, respectively. On the former, women are almost equal to men when it comes to labour force participation (94.5%), and there are more women than men among professional and technical workers. However, women are still significantly less likely to hold managerial positions than men (the split between women and men in senior roles is 35.6% / 64.4%). Also, there are still 26% and 21% of wage and income gaps to be filled. When it comes to Political Empowerment, although Norway ranks 2nd overall, women are still less than 50% of both parliamentarians (40.8%) and ministers (42%).

Finland (3) climbs one place this year, reducing its overall gender gap by 1 percentage point to 84.2%. Finland had already achieved parity on the Educational Attainment and Health and Survival subindexes since the first edition of the Gender Gap Report, and this edition’s improvement is mainly due to a narrower Political Empowerment gap, where the share of women in parliament gets closer to an equal split between women and men. In fact, this share increases to 47% from 42% in the past assessment, counterbalancing a slight decrease in the share of women in ministerial positions (37.5%). Further, Finland marginally reduces its Economic Participation and Opportunity gender gap (2 percentage points narrower than last year). This result is mainly driven by a slight increase of women in senior roles (31.8%, versus 31.3% in 2018), which does still translate into a relatively large gender gap level (over 50% of this gap is yet to be bridged). The remaining aspects of the Economic Participation and Opportunity gap remain substantially stable: the gap in labour force participation is relatively small (96% closed so far) and the share of women in skilled roles is already higher than those of men, while the wage and income gaps yet to close remain at about 20% and 28%, respectively.

Sweden (4) loses 1 place as it sees its gap stagnating at 82% and is overtaken by Finland. The country’s gender gap in Economic Participation and Opportunity is marginally regressing due to stagnating labour force participation and wage gender gaps, while differences in income between women and men are slightly diverging. Nonetheless, Sweden remains among the world’s top 15 countries in terms of labour force participation (81% of women are in the labour market) and income gender gaps (76.9%). In addition, women are 38.6% of managers and over 50% of skilled workers. Notably, Sweden has the highest share of women graduates from STEM programmes among Nordic countries (15.7% of female graduates attain a degree from a technical programme). Further, Sweden is ranked fourth globally for the number of women on boards of directors (36.3% of companies’ board members are women). Consistent with the global trend, the political empowerment gender gap is closing in Sweden as well, as 47.3% of parliamentary seats (an increase of 4 percentage points) and 54% of ministerial positions are represented by women. However, there has not yet been a woman head of state in the country.

Nicaragua (5) has, to date, closed nearly 80% of its gender gap, the 5th best performance in the world. Nicaragua has already achieved gender parity in Educational Attainment and Health and Survival, and has the third-lowest Political Empowerment gender gap in the world (43.5% yet to close). Notably, Nicaragua has more women in ministerial positions than men, and has been led by a female head of state for almost seven years of the past 50. However, Nicaragua’s Economic Participation and Opportunity gender gap is relatively large by international comparison. The country has closed so far just 67.1% of this gap, ranking 81st. This result is driven by low labour force participation of women (53.9% of them are in the labour market, versus 86% of men) and relatively large wage gaps (45% of this gap is yet to be bridged). Further, the participation of women in the labour market is concentrated in part-time jobs (51.4% of working women are employed part-time) and few women rise to managerial positions (approximately 35% of these positions are filled by women). These aspects show that, although Nicaragua attains a strong performance overall, there are still some important areas for improvement to better leverage female talent in the labour market. In parallel, further investments in skills and education should support better opportunities for all Nicaraguan citizens. For instance, secondary enrolment rates remain low for both boys and girls (52% and 44% respectively), and greater efforts should be made to increase human capital in the country.

New Zealand (6) is ranked one position higher compared to 2018, despite the fact that its overall gender gap is virtually unchanged. New Zealand has closed 79.9% of its overall gender gap so far, and since 2006 has achieved gender parity in Educational Attainment and Health and Survival. The country is also 13th globally in terms of Political Empowerment (47.4% of this gap has been closed so far). With 41% of women in parliament, and a cumulative 12.6 years of the past 50 with a woman as its head of state, New Zealand is among the countries where women are strongly represented in institutions, and one of the first to grant the right to vote to all women (1893). There were, however, fewer women in ministerial positions (30.1%). In terms of Economic Participation and Opportunity, New Zealand is ranked 27th overall, after having closed 75.3% of this gap. Women’s participation in the labour force is relatively high (76.4%) but lower than that of men (85.8%), leading to a gender gap of 11%. The two aspects where New Zealand attains the lowest performances are in this subindex. Women in senior roles are a few decimal points shy of 40% (26th overall) and the wage and income gaps stand at about 29% and 49%, ranking 38th and 77th respectively.

Ireland (7) climbs two positions in 2020, having closed 79.8% of its gender gap; in particular, the country has nearly achieved parity in secondary education (99.6%). Ireland also continues to reduce Economic Participation and Opportunity gender gaps. The country has been on a constantly positive trend for the past four editions and has now closed 73.2% of this gap. The most significant progress has been in the increase in the number of women in senior positions (36% from 34.3%) as well as estimated earned income, where 34.1% of the gap has yet to be closed. Despite these steps forward, however, wage and income gender gaps are still relatively large, both ranking 56th globally. Similarly, women engage in the labour market relatively less than in other countries (ranking 65th), and less than men (66.7% of women and 78.9% of men are in the labour force). Notably, only half of the women who work are employed part-time, and on average an Irish woman tends to spend 2.3 times more than a man on unpaid care and domestic activities. In the political domain, on the other hand, Ireland is one of a handful of countries that has been led by a woman for long periods of time (21 years in the past 50). Yet this has not coincided to a particularly strong involvement of women in politics. Only 22% of parliamentarians in the lower house, 30% in the upper house, and 26% of ministers are women.

Spain (8) is one of the most improved countries in this edition, entering the top 10 from the past edition’s 29th position. Spain has improved on all dimensions, except for Health and Survival where it has already closed 97.2% of its gap. Political Empowerment is the area where the most substantial improvement is achieved. Spain advances 17.3 percentage points in this dimension compared with previous editions, closing 52.7% of this gap thanks to a large representation of women among ministers (64.7%) and an almost equal share of parliamentarians (47.4% women and 42.6%, men). Despite this large step forward however, Spain’s heads of state have so far always been men. To a lesser extent, gender parity in Spain also advances in the workplace (68.1% from last edition’s 66.8%). Despite improving on all aspects of economic participation, however, Spain has yet to bridge large gaps in wages (44.2% yet to close), income (33.9% yet to close) and the presence of women in managerial positions (52.7% yet to close). Only 32% of senior officials (in both public and private sectors) and only 22% of board members in Spanish firms are women. Labour participation of women is also still below that of men (68.8% versus 78.9%), showing that there are still strong cultural and business practices barriers to grant women the same opportunities as men.

Rwanda (9) is confirmed as the best performer in Sub-Saharan Africa. Rwanda has closed 79.1% of its gender gap but loses three positions from previous edition. Rwanda is still among the top 4 countries in the world for political empowerment, thanks to a high share of women (above 50%) among both parliamentarians and ministers. Rwanda has also closed its Health and Survival gap and is 4.3% shy of completing gender parity in education. Human capital formation is limited in general, yet women are relatively more penalized than men. For instance, only 69.4% of women and 77.5% of men are literate, and, while gross participation in tertiary education is below 8% for both men and women, there are almost twice as many men than women who obtain scientific and technical degrees. This is to some extent reflected by the relatively large gap that Rwanda has yet to close in terms of Economic Participation and Opportunity (67.2% so far). Despite the fact that Rwanda’s women are as active as men in the labour market, their income and wages remain significantly lower (23.7% and 38.9%, respectively, of these gaps have yet to close). While this may partially due to cultural biases, the skill differences between women and men currently in the labour force also play a role. As a result, a relatively small fraction of Rwanda’s women are employed in skilled professions (38.7%) and an even smaller share is found among senior officials (14%). While skills are not the only factors, the fact that women’s access to education has been limited in the past is still affecting the opportunities they need to compete in the workplace today. Ongoing investments and enhancements in education and human capital promise to offer better opportunities to future generations of Rwanda’s women.

Germany (10) returns into the top ten for the first time since 2007 and has so far closed 78.7% of its gender gap. Similar to several countries in this edition, Germany climbs in the rankings mainly thanks to greater participation of women in politics. Women are now 40% of German ministers, while the share of parliamentarians remains at 30.9%. The ongoing tenure of a woman as a head of state also contributes to further increase Germany’s score on the Political Empowerment subindex. To date 14.1 years of the past 50 have seen a woman in charge of the highest institutional role in the country. However, gender gaps in other dimensions are essentially at the same level as last year. Germany has closed 97.2% of its Educational Attainment gap (there are still more men than women in secondary education) and has virtually achieved gender parity in terms of Health and Survival. When it comes to Economic Participation and Opportunity, however, Germany has only closed 72.3% of its gap. Among the factors that stand out as priorities in this area are the need to fast-forward reduction in wage and income disparities (only 67.1% and 69.5% of these gaps have been closed so far), and the limited presence of women among managers. Only 29.3% of these positions are held by women, which translates into a gap of 58.4%. Similarly, only 31.9% of board members of German-listed companies are women. Paternity leave is also relatively limited: only nine weeks are granted to men. Enhancing an even playing field to both genders in the workplace is the next step for Germany’s progress towards full gender parity.

Top 15 most populous countries

Bangladesh has closed 72.6% of its overall gender gap and ranks 50th on the index. The country improves its score marginally by 0.4 percentage points but loses two positions nonetheless, as other countries have improved even more. Bangladesh is the best performer in South Asia, ahead of Nepal (101st) and Sri Lanka (102nd), and some 60 places ahead of India (112th). But its presence in the top 50 and regional leadership should not hide the fact that there is considerable room to bolster basic rights of women and improve their economic and political prospects. It is the only country in the world where women have had a longer tenure than men at the helm of the state over the past 50 years. This contributes to the strong performance on the Political Empowerment subindex (score of 54.5%, 7th). But there are only 8% of women in the cabinet and only 20% in the parliament. In the economic sphere, as of 2018, 38% of adult women were part of the labour force (up from 34% in 2017), compared with 84% of men. Only one in 10 leadership roles is occupied by a woman (139th), and the estimated average annual income of women is 40% that of the men.

Progressing three places over 2018, Brazil ranks 92nd with an overall score of 69.1%. The country has closed 69% of its overall gender gap, up one percentage point from the previous edition. Despite this improvement, Brazil has one of Latin America’s largest gender gaps, ranking 22nd out of 25 countries in the region, and almost 90 places behind Nicaragua (80.4%, 5th), the region’s best performer. The country has closed both the educational and health gender gaps. There is perfect gender parity in literacy rate (93%) and primary education (95%), and a larger proportion of women than men are enrolled in both secondary and tertiary education, where there are 140 female students for every 100 male students. Furthermore, women can expect to live five years more than men in good health. The economic gender gap remains wide but has narrowed over the past year (score of 69.1%, 92nd). The low rate of female participation in the labour force, combined with persisting wage and income inequalities, weigh on the country’s performance on this subindex, but the occupation gap is much narrower. Brazil ranks among the 70 countries in the world that have reached parity between women and men for technical and professional roles, and some 40% of leadership roles (managers, senior officials, legislators) are filled by women (27th). Political empowerment, or lack thereof, represents the biggest drag on Brazil’s overall performance; with a score of 13.3%, the country ranks 104th in the world. As of June 2019, only two positions in the 22-member cabinet were held women (122nd) and women represent only 18% of the members of the parliament (114th).

China ranks 106th, down 3 places, on the Global Gender Gap Index 2020. The country has closed two-thirds of its gender gap (score of 67.6%), registering a very small gain of 0.3 percentage points from the previous edition. But since 2006, China has narrowed the gap only marginally (a gain of just 2 points). Meanwhile, many countries have moved closer to parity, causing China to slip from 63rd position in 2006 to today’s rank. The Chinese political landscape remains dominated by men. The country ranks 95th, with a score of 15.4%, on the related subindex. Women hold only two ministerial positions and make up only one-quarter of the National People’s Congress membership (as of 2018). Leadership positions in the economy also largely remain the preserve of the men, with one woman for every five men in these roles. China has virtually closed the educational gender gap, with both sexes achieving universal literacy. Although data is scant, available figures show that the share of women attending tertiary education is larger than the share of men. Finally, the very skewed sex ratio at birth (885 girls per 1,000 boys) weighs heavily on China’s performance on the Health and Survival subindex, where it ranks 153rd and last with a score of 92.6%.

Egypt is home to 48.7 million women, and improvements to their conditions will have a significant impact on the country’s economic and social progress. To date, Egypt has closed only 62.9% of its gender gap, ranking 134th. Much has yet to be done to grant equal opportunities to women in almost all aspects. The literacy rate is still as low as 65% among women, which translates into a 15% gender gap yet to bridge. Political empowerment is also low yet improving. Although there has never been a woman in a head of state position, and only 14.9% of parliamentarians are women, there are now significantly more women in ministerial positions (24%) than in 2018 (11.8%). This progress can hopefully stimulate further the involvement of women in politics as well as in the workplace. When it comes to economic opportunities, Egypt has a long way to go yet (140th). Only 24.7% of women are in the labour force, out of which about 20% are on a part-time contract. Further, very few women are in managerial roles (7.1%) and their presence among firms’ owners and top managers is also extremely limited (2.4% and 4.9%, respectively). These facts reflect the barriers that still prevent women to access finance and assets. By law, there are still significant limitations for women (at least for some social groups) to own land, capital and financial products. As a result, differences in income (which include wage and non-wage revenues) between men and women are large. It is estimated that the income of an average man is about 3.8 times that of an average woman. Removing all barriers that grant equal access to women and men to internships should be a first step to leveraging untapped human talent of women in the country.

Ethiopia is 82nd in the 2020 rankings and has closed 70.5% of its gender gap to date. It has achieved full parity on its Health and Survival subindex and has attained the 16th position globally in terms of Political Empowerment. Almost half (47.6%) of ministers are women, and a woman was elected president in 2018. In addition, 38.8% of parliament seats are occupied by women. Despite these remarkable results, women still suffer from underdevelopment in health services. For instance, every year 400 mothers out of every 100,000 die giving birth, and only 27% of births are attended by skilled health personnel. Further, Ethiopia is struggling to progress on gender parity in education (85.0%, 140th) and economic opportunities (56.8%, 125th). Investments in human capital are insufficient in general, but women are even more penalized than men. Only 44% of women and 59% of men are literate, and almost 20% of girls and 12% of boys are not receiving formal primary education. At higher levels of education, participation is even lower: only 5.2% of women and 10.9% of men graduating from high school attend university. Delays in preparing the talent pool also translate into low employment performances. Labour force participation is skewed towards men: 87.8% of men are in active employment versus 77% of women. Wages and income are low in general, and gender gaps are still significant (51% and 42% of the wage and income gender gaps are yet to be closed). Women are also a minority among skilled workers (32.6%) and managers and senior officials (26.5%). Despite the fact that legislation does not restrain women from accessing assets, there are still some limitations for women who belong to some ethnic or social groups, which leads to a relatively low number of female entrepreneurs (16.5%) in general.

India ranks 112th on the overall Global Gender Gap Index and the country has closed two-thirds of its overall gender gap (score of 66.8%). However, the condition of women in large fringes of India’s society is precarious. It has lost four positions since the previous edition, despite a small score improvement, as some countries ranked lower than India have improved more. The economic gender gap runs particularly deep in India. Only one-third of the gap has been bridged (score of 35.4%, 149th, down 7 places). Since 2006, the gap has gotten significantly wider. Among the 153 countries studied, India is the only country where the economic gender gap is larger than the political gender gap. Only one-quarter of women, compared with 82% of men, engage actively in the labour market (i.e. working or looking for work)—one of the lowest participation rates in the world (145th). Furthermore, female estimated earned income is a mere one-fifth of male income, which is also among the world’s lowest (144th). Women only account for 14% of leadership roles (136th) and 30% of professional and technical workers. India ranks a low 150th on the Health and Survival subindex (94.4), as a result of the skewed sex ratio at birth: there are 91 girls born per 100 boys born, a ratio well below the natural one. Violence, forced marriage and discrimination in access to health remain pervasive. The situation and the trend are more positive in terms of gender gaps in education. From primary to tertiary education, the share of women attending school is systematically larger than the share of men. But a large difference persists for literacy rate; only two-thirds of women are literate compared with 82% of men. Yet the gap has been narrowing in the past decade, because the literacy rate has significantly increased among women (66%) and slightly decreased among men to 79%. Finally, India ranks 18th (score of 41.1%) on the Political Empowerment subindex. Of the past 50 years, the country was headed by a woman for 20 years (4th) which largely explains this strong performance. But today, female political representation is low: women make up only 14.4% of the parliament (122nd) and 23% of the cabinet (69th).

Indonesia retains its 85th position on the Global Gender Gap Index, despite a small improvement in its score (70.0, up 1 percentage point). The country has closed 70% of its gender gap. The economic gap remains large but has narrowed considerably since 2006. For example, in the last year alone, Indonesia jumped 28 places on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex rankings (68.5%, 68th), constituting one of the most significant improvements on this dimension globally. Indonesia boasts the world’s largest share (55%) of senior and leadership roles held by women and is one of the six countries in the world where a majority of such roles are held by women. On the other hand, the low share of women (54%) participating in the labour market and significant difference in income distribution (female earned income is half that of men) continue to weigh on the country’s performance on this subindex. Both the educational and health gender gaps have nearly closed (scores of 97.0 and 97.4% on the respective subindexes). However, small imbalances persist in terms of literacy rates (94% among women compared with 97% among men) and primary enrolment rate (91% versus 96%), although levels are extremely high and rising for both sexes. Whereas the trends are overwhelmingly positive in the economic, health and educational spheres, the political gender gap has widened slightly, from a low base (17.2%, 82nd down 22 places). This results from weaker female representation in parliament (17.4%, down from 19.8%) and in the cabinet (24%, down from 26%).

Japan’s gender gap is by far the largest among all advanced economies and has widened over the past year. The country ranks 121st out of 153 countries on this year’s Global Gender Gap Index, down 1 percentage point and 11 positions from 2018. Japan has narrowed slightly its economic gender gap, but from a very low base (score of 59.8, 115th). Indeed, the gap in this area is the third-largest among advanced economies, after Italy (117th) and the Republic of Korea (127th). Only 15% of senior and leadership positions are held by women (131st), whose income is around half that of men (108th). The progress achieved in the economic arena has been more than offset by a widening of the political gender gap. Japan has only closed 5% of the gap in this dimension (144th). At 10%, female representation in the Japanese parliament is one of the lowest in the world (135th) and 20% below the average share across advanced economies. Furthermore, there is only one woman in the 18-member cabinet. This translates into a rate of approximately 5% (139th), 26% below the peer (high income) average. Finally, like more than half of the countries studied, Japan has had no female head of state in the last 50 years.

Mexico is one of the most improved countries this year, reaching the 25th position with a score of 75.4%. Most of this progress is due to a large increase in the number of women in ministerial positions, jumping from 15.8% in 2018 to 42.1%. In addition, women represent over 48% of seats in the country’s parliament. These factors explain why Mexico has closed 46.8% of its gender gap on the Political Empowerment subindex, where it ranks 14th. Further, Mexico has almost completely closed both its Educational Attainment and Health and Survival gaps. Economically, however, women are still disadvantaged. Mexico has closed just 57.4% of its Economic Participation and Opportunity gap, ranking 124th. Significant gaps in both wages (50%) and income (54%) show how women are less valued than men in the workplace. At the same time, women struggle to attain senior positions (36%) and are not very active in the labour market in the first place. Only 47% of women are in the labour force, 26.4% of them work part-time and women continue to spend three times as much as men on unpaid household care activities.

Nigeria has so far closed 63.5% of its gender gap, which places it 128th on the global rankings. Nigeria performs relatively better in offering comparable economic opportunities to both men and women than it does on the other dimensions of the index. The country has closed 73.8% of its Economic Participation and Opportunity gender gap to date (38th globally) and is one of the most improved countries globally on this aspect since 2018 (almost 8 percentage points better than last edition). Labour force participation, wages and income are low for both men and women, which has led to relatively positive gender parity outcomes that are however unsatisfactory from a human development point of view. For instance, average annual incomes are estimated to be close to 4,600 int.$ for women and 6,300 for men. In terms of occupations, women represent a higher share of skilled professionals than men (64.6%), but a significantly lower share of senior positions (30.3%). Literacy rates are also insufficient and skewed in favour of men (52.6% and 71.3%, respectively). Similarly, participation of women in formal in education is relatively low compared to other countries in the index, leading to gender gaps of almost 17% in primary education, 13% in secondary education and nearly 30% at the university level. Only 58% of girls are in primary school, 47% of them attend secondary school and just 8.3% go to university. Among politicians, only 3.4% of parliamentarians (149th) and 8% of ministers are women (124th). Nigeria has never had a female head of state.

Pakistan ranks third-to-last (151st) on the 2020 Global Gender Gap Index, having closed only 56% of the gender gap. This performance represents an improvement from the previous edition (55.0), but it is insufficient to prevent Pakistan from falling in the rankings, as new countries have entered the rankings at a higher position. Pakistan ranks in the bottom 10 in three of the four main categories of the index and below the 100th mark in 12 of the 14 individual indicators composing the index. Encouragingly, however, Pakistan improves on a majority of them—sometimes markedly and is stable in the others. The gap remains cavernous in terms of economic participation and opportunities (32.7, 150th). Only one-quarter of women participate in the labour force (i.e. working or looking to work) compared with 85% of men (148th). Only 5% of senior and leadership roles are held by women (146th), twice the rate of 2016. It is estimated that only 18% of Pakistan’s labour income goes to women (148th), one of the lowest share among countries studied. While a majority of countries have bridged or nearly bridged the educational gender gap, Pakistan’s still stands at almost 20%. Less than half of women are literate, compared with 71% of men, while the share of women enrolled is systematically lower than the share of men across primary, secondary and tertiary education. The political gender gap has narrowed markedly over the past two years but remains wide (15.9, 93rd). In 2017, there was not a single female minister. As of 1 January 2019, there were three women in the 25-member cabinet.

The Philippines has closed 78% of its overall gender gap. Once a member of the top 10 on the Global Gender Gap Index, the country now ranks 16th as a result of a small decline in its score (78.1, down 1.8 percentage points). The Philippines boasts the smallest gender gap of the Asian continent by far—the second best is Lao PDR, which ranks 43rd. The country’s performance is strong across three of the four dimensions of the index. It has closed 80% of the Economic Participation and Opportunity gender gap, with women outnumbering men in senior and leadership roles, as well as in professional and technical professions. It is only one of four countries to achieve this feat. The country ranks 5th on the indicator assessing gender wage equality, with a score of 81.2. The Philippines has closed both its Educational Attainment and Health and Survival gender gaps. Women can expect to live in good health five years longer than men. Literacy is universal, with rates above 98% for both sexes. A significantly larger share of women is enrolled in secondary education (71% compared with 60% of men) and tertiary education (57% versus 43%). However, the Political Empowerment gap has widened considerably over the past two years, albeit from a relatively high base (score of 35.3%, down 0.063), causing the country to drop from 13th to 29th position. This downgrade is almost entirely attributable to lower female representation in the cabinet, which declined from 25% to 10% between 2017 and 2019. Female representation in the parliament was also slightly down and stood at 28% at the beginning of 2019.

The Russian Federation has closed 70.6% of its gap so far and ranks 81st overall in 2020. Russian women are, on average, more educated than men and live longer but seldom achieve positions of leadership. Ninety-one percent of women attend high school (versus 90.4% of men), 89% of female high-school graduates are enrolled in tertiary education versus 75% of men, and women enjoy a healthy life expectancy that is almost 8 years longer than men. In addition, there are almost as many women as men holding a PhD (64% vs. 66%). Given these qualifications, Russian women not only participate in the labour force at high levels (68.9% are in the labour market), but they are employed in skilled jobs to a greater extent than men (62.3% of professional and technical workers are women). Despite their average level of skill however, women are still penalized financially: only 71.2% of the wage gap and 57.9% of the income gap have been closed so far. Income disparities are partially explained by the fact the women encounter resistance to access senior or managerial positions: 41.8% of managers and senior officials are women and only 7% of board members are women. Political participation is even more difficult. Russia has closed less than 10% of its Political Empowerment gap so far and ranks only 122nd on this subindex. Not only has there never been a woman as a head of state, but there are few women among ministers (12.9%) and parliamentarians (15.8%). As a result, despite the fact that Russian society provides women with broad access to education and some segments of the labour market, a glass ceiling is preventing most of them from accessing positions of power either in politics or in the business sector.

The United States’ progress towards gender parity is stalling and the country registers a similar overall score to last year (72.4% of the gap closed so far). Due to this lack of progress, the United States loses two positions in the ranking and is now 53rd. The standstill is mostly explained by a small retraction in its Economic Participation and Opportunity performance, where the progress towards equal wages takes a step back and at the same time income (wages and non-wages) gaps remain large. The United States has only closed 69.9% of its wage gap and 65.6% of its income gap so far. While monetary disparities are the main source of gender inequality in the workplace, labour force participation and the presence of women in skilled and senior positions women are relatively better: 66.8% of adult women are in the labour market, with an equal split between men and women in technical occupation and a 41/59 split among senior roles, ranking 22nd. Despite being relatively well represented in middle and high management roles, American women still struggle to enter the very top business positions: only 21.7% of corporate managing board members are women. Similarly women are under-represented in political leadership roles. Even with a significant increase in the number of women in parliament and ministerial positions compared to previous years, congresswomen are just 23.6% of the available seats (67th), and female minsters are only 21.7% of the cabinet (76th). In addition, there has never been a woman president to date. On a more positive note, gender parity is virtually achieved in Health and Survival and Educational Attainment, where female enrolment rates are above 90% across education levels, and outnumber the men in tertiary education.

Viet Nam has bridged 70% of its gender gap. The country ranks 87th in 2020, down 10 positions from the previous edition. Its performance across the four dimensions of the index is mostly unchanged, but several countries have improved over the past year and, consequently, overtaken Viet Nam. The country ranks 31st, up two positions, on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex (score of 75.1%). Estimates indicate that 45% of labour income accrue to women, one of the largest shares among countries studied. Limited data availability provides only a partial picture of the educational gender gap but suggests that there is almost parity in this area. The literacy rate is 94% for women and 96% for men, and a larger share of women attends tertiary education (32% compared with 26% for men). In terms of the Health and Survival subindex (94.2, 151st), Viet Nam gets penalized for the heavily skewed sex ratio at birth (89 girls for every 100), which is the lowest in the world and on par with China and Azerbaijan. Finally, female participation in political life remains limited. Women represent one-quarter of the parliament, but there is only one woman in the cabinet of 25 ministers, one of the world’s lowest ratios.


The Global Gender Gap Report 2020 provides a comprehensive overview of the current state of the global gender gap and of efforts and insights to close it. The index offers a benchmarking tool to track progress and to reveal best practices across countries and subjects. This year the report finds that the gender gap has closed slightly since last year, yet it will still require 99.5 years to achieve full parity at the current pace.

The report also highlights wide performance variation across countries that are due to a diverse array of underlying factors. The report’s detailed Country Profiles and online Data Explorer tool—available on the report website (https://wef-gender-gap.netlify.com/)—not only allow users to understand how close each country has come to the equality benchmark in each of the four subindexes, but also provide a snapshot of the legal and social framework within which these outcomes are produced.

The report continues to highlight the strong correlation between a country’s gender gap and its economic performance and summarizes some of the latest research on the case for gender equality. This year, the report introduces a deeper analysis of gender gaps across industries and the role of gender-based occupational and skills imbalances. The report highlights the message to policy-makers that countries that want to remain competitive and inclusive will need to make gender equality a critical part of their nation’s human capital development. In particular, learning between countries and public-private cooperation within countries will be critical elements of closing the gender gap.

The information contained in the Global Gender Gap Report series hopefully serves as a basis for continued benchmarking by countries on their progress towards gender equality, to help support the case for closing gender gaps and to encourage further research on policies and practices that are effective at promoting change. Based on this information, the World Economic Forum also engages in country-level action, which takes place through various regional activities, including the “country-accelerator” project described in Box 2


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Blau, F. and L. Kahn, The Gender Wage Gap: Extent, Trends, and Explanations (NBER Working Paper No. 21913), National Bureau of Economic Research, 2016, http://www.nber.org/papers/w21913.

Chaaban, J. and W. Cunningham, Measuring the Economic Gain of Investing in Girls: The Girl Effect Dividend (World Bank Policy Research Working Paper), World Bank, 2011.

Coale, A., “Excess Female Mortality and the Balance of the Sexes in the Population: An Estimate of the Number of Missing Females”, Population and Development Review, vol. 17, no. 3, 1991, pp. 517–523.

Flabbi, L., et al., Do Female Executives Make a Difference? The Impact of Female Leadership on Gender Gaps and Firm Performance (IZA Discussion Paper No. 8602), Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), 2014.

Fukui, M., E. Nakamura and J. Steinsson, Women, Wealth Effects, and Slow Recoveries (NBER Working Papers No. 25311), National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc., 2018.

Ghani, E., M. Anandi and S. O’Connell, Can Political Empowerment Help Economic Empowerment? Women Leaders and Female Labor Force Participation in India (World Bank Policy Research Working Paper 6675), World Bank, 2013.

Greig, F., R. Hausmann, L. D. Tyson and S. Zahidi, “The Gender Gap Index 2006: A New Framework for Measuring Equality” in The Global Gender Gap Report 2006, World Economic Forum, 2006.

Hausmann, R., Learning Without Theory, Project Syndicate, 2016.

Hunt, A. and E. Samman, Women’s Economic Empowerment: Navigating Enablers and Constraints (Research Report), Overseas Development Institute (ODI), 2016.

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——— , Global Wage Report 2018/19: What lies behind gender pay gaps, 2018.

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Jütting, J., et al., Measuring Gender (In)equality: Introducing the Gender, Institutions and Development Data Base (GID) (Working Paper No. 247), OECD Development Centre, 2006. http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/17/49/36228820.pdf.

OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), “Cooking and Caring, Building and Repairing”, Society at a Glance 2011, 2011, pp. 9–27.

——— , Gender Equality in Politics in Government at a Glance, 2019.

——— , Comparable Estimates of Average Wages per Full-Time Equivalent Employee, available at http://www.oecd.org/employment/emp/average_wages.pdf.

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——— , The Global Gender Gap Report 2018, 2018.

Box 1: Progress towards gender equality in wages, where do we stand?

Gender parity in pay is proving hard to achieve. Pay differentials between men and women are a persistent form of gender inequality in the workplace and the Global Gender Gap Index 2020 finds that the progress towards closing the gender gap on this aspect has stalled. No country (including the top-ranked ones) have yet achieved gender parity in wages. Given that women continue to be less rewarded than men in the workplace, it is important to assess the extent of this difference in monetary terms and if there has been some progress looking at a longer time series, at least in some countries.

To answer these questions, it is first necessary to define how wage gaps are measured and what they include. To start, recall that wage gaps refer only to differences in pay of employees, and therefore they do not take into account differences in men’s and women’s revenues due to non-employment contracts. For instance, revenues from corporate profits or from financial assets are not considered. Since there are less women than men among entrepreneurs or investors, and non-salary revenues are higher than wages, income gaps (which include all types of revenues) tend to be larger than wage gaps. According to the estimate provided by this report, income differences are quite large: the global average of woman’s income is about $11,000 (in Purchasing Power Parity, PPPs) while the average income of a man is $21,000 (in PPPs).

The wage gap is somewhat smaller, but different measurements deliver different results. Four metrics are available for cross-country comparison:

1. The OECD’s gender wage gap is defined as the difference between male and female median wages divided by male median wages. Wages are computed for full-time equivalent dependent employees and are expressed in Purchasing Power Parity terms.1
3. The ILO’s gender median and mean pay gaps are two indicators computed either as the difference between the median wages of men to that of women; or as the difference between the average wages of men and women. In both cases ILO uses hourly wages.2
5. The ILO’s factor-weighted gender pay gap is a corrected version of the measures above. Simply put, the raw mean and median wage differences are corrected (using econometric analysis) by four factors: education levels, age, working time (full-time versus part-time) and status (private-sector versus public-sector employment).
6. The World Economic Forum’s wage equality for similar work is derived from the Executive Opinion Survey, a questionnaire answered by business leaders in over 140 countries. The respondents are asked: “In your country, for similar work, to what extent are wages for women equal to those of men?” (1 = not at all, significantly below those of men; 7 = fully, equal to those of men). These individual answers are then aggregated, and the resulting figures are converted into 0–1 scores, where 1 stands for equal pay between women and men, working in a similar position.

Each approach has advantages and disadvantages; however, it is important to be aware that to correctly measure wage gaps one needs to control for: i) incidence of part-time and hours worked: since a relatively high share of women is working part-time, wage gaps may be partially due to working fewer hours; ii) concentration in professions where salaries are higher: a relatively high share of women is working in occupations that are less well-paid then men, which of course affects the calculation of average and median wages by gender; iii) concentration in senior roles: since salaries of managers and senior professionals are higher than those in operational positions and there are fewer women in senior roles, not considering this aspect leads to over-estimating wage gaps.

Economic theory suggests that, absent frictions or distortions, wages should simply remunerate the productivity of a worker. However, this is not the case in the job market; hence, to correctly measure gender wage gaps, one should be able to disentangle productivity differentials (i.e. differences in skills), from outright gender discrimination (i.e. the part of wage differential only to a woman with a similar set of skill and same role is offered a lower salary than a man) and from other types of frictions than in turn impact wage differentials (i.e. discrimination in promoting women in senior roles).

In this respect, while OECD and ILO unweighted wage gaps have the merit to produce a quantitative measure of the monetary difference between salaries of men and women, they do not isolate the difference in pay only due to gender bias. They therefore capture overall differences in wages due to all elements that cause women to be disadvantaged in the workplace.

The ILO factor-weighted gender pay gap is a more refined estimate of differences due to gender biases, but it is still not comparing exactly wages of men and women in the same positions. In addition, this measure requires a large statistical collection effort and therefore is produced in discrete points in time in each country. As such, continuous time series are not available for most countries.

The World Economic Forum’s Executive Opinion Survey score—although it is based on perceptions and does not allow for a monetary quantification of the wage gap—compares gender wage gaps for similar roles and therefore aims at isolating the gender bias, excluding frictions in the labour market structure that lead women to be employed in different roles than men.

Figure 1.1: Wage gap between women and men, OECD countries, 2010-2019

Having clarified what each measure captures, it is possible to compare trends in wage gap measures based on statistical data (OECD gender wage gaps) and based on Executive Opinion Survey data. Time series of wage differentials based on “hard” data are only available for OECD countries. Figure 1.1 shows trends in average wage gaps in this group of countries.

According to OECD data, the differential in men’s median income and women’s median income is about 13.5%. This estimate is somewhat smaller than the ILO’s factor-weighted median gender pay gap, which is about 15%.

Looking at the trend, the average wage gap in OECD countries is closing but at a very slow rate. As shown in Figure 1.1, it was 4.5% a decade ago and is now 13.5%, and it has therefore reduced by 1 percentage point in 10 years. This direction is consistent with Executive Opinion Survey trends, which finds that in OECD countries, the wage equality for similar work has increased by approximately 2 percentage points in 10 years.3 Both trends are encouraging, but too slowly.

Further, as time series for the indicator “wage equality for similar work” are available continuously for over 100 countries, it is possible to compare wage gap trends in OECD countries and all other countries.

Figure 1.2: Wage equality between women and men, OECD and non-OECD countries, 2010–2019

Figure 1.2 shows that while in OECD countries gender equality is improving, albeit slowly, in the rest of the world, on average equality is worsening. As a consequence, the negative average trend observed in non-OECD countries over-weights progress achieved in high-income (OECD) countries. This clarifies why global progress towards closing the wage gap has stalled.

Further research is needed to fully explain why wage gaps are widening (on average) outside OECD countries, yet the analysis allows to conclude that: first, gender gap in wages are still large and women’s wages can be estimated to be about 15% lower than those of men; second, in OECD countries wage gaps are closing but the progress is too slow; third, more efforts are needed to remove all barriers that prevent women to attain similar economic opportunities as men, especially in emerging and developing countries.

Box 2: Closing the Gender Gap Country Accelerators

While there is growing knowledge of public policy and business actions that can help close aspects of the economic gender gap, there are no pre-existing change templates for how government and business can work together to accelerate change. As countries strive for gender parity, there must be greater public-private collaboration, access to the latest knowledge on effective interventions, and improved learning and exchange between countries on the new methods they are applying.

The World Economic Forum Platform for Shaping the Future of the New Economy and Society’s Closing the Gender Gap Country Accelerators provide a solution. Each Accelerator is a national public-private collaboration platform to help governments and businesses identify, scale and accelerate initiatives to close gender gaps. The Accelerator model helps focus the different existing efforts by bringing together relevant stakeholders onto one platform.

The Accelerators’ local leadership structure consists of 2 Ministers and 2–4 CEOs as Co-Chairs, a Country Coordinator who runs the initiative locally and 50–100 of the countries’ largest employers who drive the in-country change. Countries sign up to the model for three years and drive impact through a locally adapted action plan based on the Forum’s global framework. In addition to in-country work, countries join the Global Accelerators Learning Network, which helps create informal exchange on successful local initiatives between countries. The World Economic Forum maintains the global framework while each country leads its Accelerator independently, driving action against objectives in the local context.

The Accelerators drive change by working on initiatives at three levels: changing institutional structures and policies, working on norms and attitudes and building public and private sector leaders’ collective commitment. Each country works towards the following four objectives across all countries through the country specific action plan:

1. Increasing female labour force participation broadly and in selected sectors

2. Increasing the number of women in leadership positions

3. Closing gaps in wage and remuneration

4. Building parity in emerging high-demand skills and jobs

Accelerators are currently active in nine countries, of which seven are in Latin America and in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank. We are inviting additional countries on board and aim to have 15 Accelerators by the end of 2020.

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