The Global Gender Gap Index was first introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006 to benchmark progress towards gender parity and compare economies’ gender gaps across four dimensions: economic opportunities, education, health and political leadership (see Figure 1.1). By providing economy rankings, the report incentivizes comparisons across regions and economies and stimulates learning on the drivers of gender gaps and policies to close them.
This year’s 15th edition continues to build on the methodology established with that inaugural report, offering a consistent metric to assess progress over time. As noted in previous editions, significant data availability limitations prevent reflecting a non-binary view of gender gaps that covers the full spectrum of gender identities. As such, the index and the analysis remain focused on benchmarking progress on disparities between women and men across economies, and over time, on economic, education, health, and political outcomes.
This year, the report expands the measurement of the global gender gap, adding three more economies (Afghanistan, Guyana and Niger) to the ranking. To be included, an economy must have recent data available for a minimum of 12 indicators out of the 14 that comprise the index. Afghanistan, Guyana and Niger have met this standard for the first time. With these three new additions, the ranking covers 156 economies; 107 have consistently been included in the index every year since the first edition in 2006.
The Global Gender Gap score (based on the population-weighted average for each of the 156 economies included this year) in 2021 is 67.7% (when considering only the 107 economies covered continuously from 2006 to 2021 it is 68.0%). This means that the remaining gap to close stands at 32.3%. On average, the gap has widened by almost 0.6 percentage points compared to the previous edition of the index.
This overall widening of the global gender gap is also reflected in the fact that the number of economies registering at least a marginal improvement is smaller than the number of economies scoring a weaker performance than last year. Out of the 153 economies and economies covered both this year and in 2020, 98 have improved their score while 55 have regressed or stalled.
Table 1.1 presents the 2021 Global Gender Gap rankings and the scores for all 156 economies covered by this year’s report. Although no economy has yet to achieve full gender parity, the top two economies (Iceland and Finland) have closed at least 85% of their gap, and another seven economies (Lithuania, Namibia, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Rwanda and Ireland) have closed at least 80% of their gap. Geographically, the global top 10 continues to be dominated by Nordic economies, with —Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden—in the top five. The top 10 is completed by one economy from Asia Pacific (New Zealand 4th), two Sub-Saharan economies (Namibia, 6th and Rwanda, 7th, one economy from Eastern Europe (the new entrant to the top 10, Lithuania, 8th) and another two Western European economies (Ireland, 9th, and Switzerland, 10th, another economy in the top-10 for the first time).
Five economies, albeit starting from different levels of gender parity, have improved their score by at least 4.4 percentage points or more, qualifying as the five most-improved economies this year: Lithuania, Serbia, Timor-Leste, Togo and United Arab Emirates.
This section discusses the overall global gender gap scores across the four main components (subindexes) of the index: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival and Political Empowerment. In doing so, it aims to shed light on which factors are driving the overall average decline in the global gender gap score. The results show that this year’s decline is mainly caused by a reversal in performance on the Political Empowerment gap. In parallel, progress on the Economic Participation and Opportunity, Health and Survival and Educational Attainment subindexes has been marginal or stalled. It’s important to note that these results only partially reflect the impact of COVID-19 on gender gaps, as detailed in Chapter 2.
Breaking down the overall index’s score into its four subindexes also highlights the progress attained globally on each of these dimensions so far, taking into account that additional economies have been assessed for this edition. As shown in Figure 1.2, 95% and 96% of Educational Attainment and Health and Survival (respectively) gaps have been closed already. However, the remaining gaps have proven difficult to close completely as their scores have remained approximately unchanged over the past few editions of the report.
Progress on closing the Economic Participation and Opportunity gender gap is less advanced (only 58% of the gap has been closed so far), while Political Empowerment has achieved the least progress to date globally (22%), meaning over 78% of the gap is therefore yet to be closed.
Taking a closer look at results for each subindex offers a more complete assessment of the situation globally. An overview of the global distribution of subindex performances is presented in Figure 1.3, with the population-weighted average for each subindex represented by a blue diamond. It’s clear that economies’ performances are distributed unevenly among the Gender Gap Index and the underlying subindexes.
Overall, gender gap scores are clustered around the average score, with a greater concentration of economies slightly above the average. As Figure 1.3 shows, the Political Empowerment subindex is not only the dimension where average global gender gaps are larger, but also where there is wide dispersion of economies’ performance. The scores vary by a great extent, between 0% and 76%, with a stronger concentration towards the lower half of the distribution. The distribution of Economic Opportunity and Participation scores is also fairly dispersed, with performances ranging from 18% to 92%.
Educational Attainment is where scores are relatively more concentrated, with economy performances ranging between just 51% and 100%. Finally, the Health and Survival subindex is the area where gender gaps are smallest on average, and economies’ performances are significantly more concentrated: scores vary among a concentrated set of values between just 93% and 98%. The fact that populous economies such as India and China perform below average contributes to reducing the global average result.
Educational Attainment is the subindex with the smallest global gender gap and relatively low variation: 121 economies have closed at least 95% of their educational gender gaps and 64 economies (more than one-third of the sample) have already achieved at least 99.5% gender parity. Among them are 28 advanced economies and 36 emerging and developing economies from all regions. Nineteen are located in the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region, sixteen are in Latin America, seventeen in Western Europe, three in Sub-Saharan Africa, four in East Asia and the Pacific, two in North America, two in the Middle East and North Africa and one in South Asia. However, in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East there are economies with educational gender gaps as large as 10% or more. In fact, 21 economies in these two regions have closed below 89% of their gender gaps in education, and eight economies rank below the fifth percentile on the index, with scores below 76%. These are Mali (75.7%),Benin, where only 73.3% of the educational gender gap has been bridged, Niger (72.6%), Yemen (71.7%), Guinea (68%), Congo, Dem. Rep. (65.8%), Chad (58.9%) and the newly assessed Afghanistan (51.4%).
A similar distribution is observed when examining different educational levels. Although, on average, gender gaps are 10% or smaller for literacy rates, as well as for primary, secondary and tertiary enrolment rates, there are still significant gaps within some economies. For instance, in terms of literacy, 64 economies have achieved a score of 99.5% and 109 of the 156 economies have attained a score of at least 90. In 2018, 90.4% of young women aged 15–24 and 92.8% of young men in the same age range are literate. While this illustrates demonstrable progress among younger generations, only 82.7% of all adult women and 89.9% of all adult men are considered literate. As such, there are still millions of adult women who can neither read nor write and are therefore excluded from multiple avenues for improving their livelihoods.1
Further, there are still economies where the rate of women’s literacy is significantly lower than that of men. For instance, in Chad only 14% of women are literate relative to 31.3% of men, while in Guinea 22% of women and 43.6% of men are literate. Similarly, in Liberia, Yemen, Mali, Pakistan, Benin, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Togo and Angola, less than 67% of the literacy gender gap has been bridged to date.
Globally, women are more likely to be enrolled in higher levels of education than men. While fewer girls are enrolled in primary education than boys (88.2% versus 90.5%), on average, there is virtual parity in secondary education, and women actually exceed men in tertiary education attainment. In 2018, 40.6% of women and 35.6% of men in the world were enrolled in tertiary education, a sign that women are pursuing education as a channel for advancement.2
Global averages, however, mask stark differences between economies. In some locations, women are still denied access to the same education levels as men. Namely, in Angola, Chad, Guinea, Nigeria and Pakistan, gender gaps in primary education enrolment are still as large as 15% or more. In Angola, for instance, 88.9% of boys are enrolled in primary education versus only 67% of girls, and in Nigeria only 69.9% of boys and 58.1% of girls are in primary school.
The ratios are similar for secondary education. Although in 130 of the 154 economies for which there are data the gender gap is smaller than 5%, there are still 10 economies with a gap of over 20%. For instance, in Guinea, with an indicator score of 66%, just 38.7%% of boys and 25.6% of girls are enrolled in secondary education, and in Chad, the economy with the largest gap in secondary education (48.4%), only 25.4% of boys and 12.3% of girls are in secondary school.
Finally, when it comes to tertiary education, cross-economy differences become extreme. While in many economies—both advanced and emerging—women are much likelier to enrol in tertiary education than men, in some developing economies the differences are still stark. For instance, in Venezuela, as well as the developed economies of Norway and New Zealand, the ratio of women of any age enrolled in tertiary education to those in official school-age population is over 97%, versus less than 70% for men. On the opposite side of the spectrum in Chad, one of the economies with the lowest rates of participation in higher education, tertiary enrolment is as low as 1.5% for women and 5% for men. Similarly, in Sierra Leone participation in tertiary education is about 2.7% for men and 1.1% for women. For many of these economies, development challenges impede primary, secondary, and higher educational attainment for both girls and boys. More must be done to reduce gender gaps while equipping new generations with the skills of the future to participate in and contribute to the economic development of their economies.3
Health and Survival is the second-best subindex in terms of progress towards gender parity globally. Here, compared to the results on the Educational Attainment subindex, the progress is more uniform across economies. All economies have closed at least 93% of their health gender gaps so far, including 56 economies that have already achieved full gender parity to date. However, populous economies such as China, India, Azerbaijan and Pakistan have achieved scores that are lower than 94%, with China slightly progressing since the last edition. The main driver of cross-economy variation is the skewed sex ratio at birth. In China, there are 0.88 female births for every male birth; in Azerbaijan and Viet Nam, 89%; in Armenia, 90%; in India, 91%; and in Pakistan, 92%, lower than a natural and biological relatively constant ratio of about 94%. These ratios can be attributed to the norms of son preference and gender-biased prenatal sex-selective practices.4
China and India together account for about 90%–95% of the estimated 1.2 million to 1.5 million missing female births annually worldwide due to gender-biased prenatal sex selective practices. Further, China, India and Pakistan register excess female mortality rates (below age 5) related to neglect and gender-biased postnatal sex selection practices. The estimated number of ‘missing women’ was 142.6 million in 2020, twice as much than in 1970, when the number of missing women was estimated at 61 million.5 On a more positive note, there is near gender parity in most economies included in the index in terms of life expectancy. Globally, women tend to live longer than men; however, in economies such as Qatar (95.0%), Afghanistan (97.3%) Mauritania (98.7%) and Jordan (98.7%) life-expectancy gender gaps persist.
The second-largest gender gap among the four components of the index is for the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex. Only 58.3% of this gap has been closed so far, virtually unchanged since last year.
As reported in previous editions, the difference in performance between the best-positioned economies and those at the bottom of the ranking is significant: 41.6 percentage points separate the top 5th percentile (with a remaining gap to close of about 18%) from the bottom 5th (with a remaining gap to close of about 60%). By the same token, the best performer, Lao PDR, has a score 73.6 points higher than Afghanistan, ranked last on this subindex among the 156 assessed in this edition.
The economies that, to date, have the smallest Economic Participation and Opportunity gaps include Lao PDR (91.5%), Bahamas (85.7%) Burundi (85.5%) Iceland (84.6%), Latvia (82.2%), Moldova (81.1%) and Sweden (81.0%). On the opposite end of the spectrum, the economies with the largest economic gender gaps are Iran (just 37.5% of the gender gap closed so far), India (32.6%), Pakistan (31.6%), Syria (28.5%), Yemen (28.2%), Iraq (22.8%) and Afghanistan (18%).
Once again, one of the most important sources of inequality between men and women is women’s underrepresentation in the labour market. Participating in labour markets has been an important channel for economic empowerment of women and for building diverse, inclusive and innovative organizations. Globally, considering population-weighted averages, almost 80% of men aged 15–64 are in the labour force versus only 52.6% of women of the same age group, explaining in part why the gender gap in labour force participation remains above 35%. Therefore, addressing normative and legal barriers for women to work and advance remains a priority area for policymakers and businesses in all economies. As explained in Chapter 2, these statistics are from 2019, hence do not take into account the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, as labour force statistics for 2020 are available only for a small subset of economies included in the index. While there is preliminary evidence that the health crisis has asymmetrically impacted labour force participation of women, the status quo was already penalizing many economies even before the onset of the pandemic. For instance, in India only 22.3% of women participate in the labour market, translating to a gender gap of 72%. Turkey (38.5% women’s participation, 50% gap), Mexico (49.1% women’s participation, 40% gap), Indonesia (56% women’s participation, 33% gap), Italy (56.5% women’s participation, 25% gap) and Korea (60% women’s participation, 23% gap) are additional examples of where women are under-represented in the labour force compared to men.
In some economies, the difference between men and women’s participation in the labour market remains even more extreme. These include Yemen (6.3% of women in the labour force, 91% gap), Iraq (12% of women in the labour force, 84% gap), Syria (15.7% of women in the labour force, 80% gap) and Jordan (15.6% of women in the labour force, 77% gap). An additional challenge is the gender gap in senior and managerial positions in the private and public sector alike. Within the sample of economies covered by this report, 41% of professionals in senior positions are women, with some progress compared to a year ago, but still significantly under-represented. The median presence of women in senior positions across all economies assessed by the index is 33%, and only 22 economies have closed at least 80% of the gap in managerial roles. Among them are a few economies where women are 50% or more of all mangers, including the Philippines, Cote d’Ivoire, Colombia, Burkina Faso, Jamaica, Togo, Botswana and Lao PDR.
At the same time, there are another 20 economies where gender gaps in managerial positions are still as large as 80% of more. Women make up 14.7% of all managerial positions across all 20 economies, corresponding to a gap of 83%. In Morocco the share is 13% (85% gap); in Bangladesh, 11% (88% gap); in Egypt, 7.4% (92% gap); in Saudi Arabia, 6.8% (93% gap); in Pakistan, 5% (95% gap); and in Yemen, 4.1% (96% gap). 6 In addition, the limited presence of women in senior roles shows a persistent ‘glass ceiling’ is still in place even in some of the most advanced economies. For instance, in the United States, women are in just 42% of senior and managerial positions; in Sweden, 40%; in the United Kingdom, 36.8%; in France, 34.6%; in Germany, 29%; in Italy and the Netherlands, 27%; in Korea, 15.6%; and in Japan, 14.7%.
Some economies, however, do report strong progress on this front. For instance, Lao PDR has improved its score by over 53 percentage points, reflecting better results in 2017, compared to the previously reported statistic which referred to data from 2010. This is not just a score improvement, but also a progress in the frequency of monitoring the condition of women in the economy. Similarly, Burkina Faso has improved by over 55 percentage points and Togo by 57 percentage points. Both economies have achieved a 50% share of women in senior roles.
Beyond inequality in access to labour force opportunities, financial disparities continue to represent a major area of concern for working women and their dependents. Despite some progress this year, the wage gap (the ratio of the wage of women to that of men in a similar position) is still approximately 37% and the income gap (the ratio of the total wage and non-wage income of women to that of men) remains close to 51%.
When it comes to wages for similar positions, gaps remain even among the best-performing economies, including Iceland, 1st overall on this indicator, where 86% of the gap has been closed; Rwanda, 5th globally (80.9% of gap closed); and Finland, 9th (79.7% of gap closed). Conversely, in Ethiopia, India, El Salvador, Bolivia and Lesotho only 46%–49% of this gap has been closed to date.
Cross-economy disparities are starker in terms of income gaps. Estimated earned incomes are at parity only in a handful of developing economies, including Burundi, Timor-Leste and Liberia, while among advanced economies, the best-performing economy, Sweden, still has an approximately 18% gap between the incomes of men and women. Other examples of advanced economies with a significant income gap to bridge include Denmark (38%), France (39%), Germany (30%) and the United States (35%). These economies score slightly above the average gap, while at the bottom of the distribution, only 26% or less of the gender gap has been bridged so far (corresponding to a 76% of gap yet to close). In the economy with the largest income gap (Yemen), women’s income is only 7% of that of men, corresponding to a gap to close of over 93%. Gender gaps in both labour participation and income are likely to increase after the COVID-19 crisis. As reported in previous editions, the disproportionate burden of household and care responsibilities was already an important driver of these gaps even before the pandemic.
While statistics on hours spent by men and women on unpaid work (mainly domestic and volunteer work) continue to show that women spend at least twice as much time as men on these tasks, data analysis reveals that school closures during the pandemic have been one of the main causes for women to reduce working hours and labour participation, as childcare responsibilities still fall predominantly on them (see chapter 2).
In addition to these wage and income disparities, women are still significantly disadvantaged in managing and accessing assets or financial services. For instance, in 74% of the economies assessed in this report not all women are granted unrestricted access to a bank account, and in 81%, not all women have full inheritance rights.
Finally, the area where gender gaps remain the widest is Political Empowerment, which also registers the most important regression compared to last year (-2.4 percentage points). Although Political Empowerment improves by at least 0.1 percentage points in 92 economies, only 21.8% of this gap has been closed so far, and even the best performer, Iceland, has yet to close 24% of this gap. Iceland’s score is 23.2 percentage points above the 95th percentile and 56.5 percentage points higher than the median global performance. It highlights just how exceptional the performance of Iceland is, but also how much remains to be done to achieve gender parity in politics in most economies.
Of some 35,500 parliament seats across the 156 economies covered by the index, only 26.1% of them are held by women. In 52 economies women represent less than 20% of the lower-chamber seats, and in two economies (Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea), as reported in the previous edition of the report, there are no women in the entire parliament. Women are similarly under-represented in ministerial positions. Only 22.6% of the over 3,400 ministers worldwide are women. The median economy performance on this aspect is 21%, and only in the top 5th percentile of the index are there are at least as many women minsters as there are men. In nine economies (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Brunei Darussalam, Papua New Guinea, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Viet Nam and Yemen) there are no female ministers at all. Examining the highest political position in a economy, very few women have served as head of state in the past 50 years. In 81 (over one-half) of the 156 economies assessed this year, there has never been a woman in this position, including economies considered relatively progressive with respect to gender parity such as Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands and the United States. In an additional 17 economies, women have been in power collectively for less than one year in the last 50 years, including France (0.89 years) and Canada (0.36 years).
There are, however, some economies where women have been in leadership roles for several years or have increased their presence at the highest institutional levels in the past few years. For instance, in Switzerland, a woman has been in head-of-state positions for almost eight of the past 50 years and the Presidency of the Swiss Confederation has been held by a woman in six of the past 10 years. Economies where women are found in the head-of state position more frequently than the norm include Finland (13 years out of 50), New Zealand (14 years), the United Kingdom (14.6 years), India (15.5 years), Germany (15.6 years), the Philippines (15.8 years), Norway (17.4 years), Ireland (20.8 years), Iceland (23.5 years) and Bangladesh, which is the only economy where more women have held head-of-state positions (27 years) than men in the past 50 years.
By estimating how much the gap has been reduced each year since the report’s first edition in 2006, it is possible to project how many years it will take to close each of the gender gaps in employment, education, health and politics.
Figure 1.4 charts the evolution of the Global Gender Gap Index and its subindexes. Since the previous edition, the global gender gap has widened by 0.5 percentage points, returning to its 2018 level, driven for the most part by a retrenchment of the average Political Empowerment score, after an increase registered in the previous edition.
This year’s results reduce the total progress made towards gender parity to just a 3.6 percentage-point gain since 2006. Hence, on average, over the past 15 years the gap has been reduced by only 0.24 percentage points per year. If progress towards gender parity proceeds at the same speed observed between the 2006 and 2021 editions, the overall global gender gap is projected to close in 135.6 years. It will therefore take longer than reported in the 2020 edition, due to widening average gender gaps, as well as to a plateauing in performances over the past few years. In fact, this edition projection is the longest reported by this publication, revealing a difficulty to make further progress on many gender issues in the past five years, after a relatively faster progress between 2006 and 2016.
Based on the constant sample of 107 economies included in every edition 2006-21, the global Political Empowerment gender gap this year is 22.3%, which is 2.4 percentage points worse than the score reported in the previous edition. This reduction brings the score back to 2014 levels and reduces the speed of positive evolution on this aspect to just 0.5 percentage points per year. As a result, it will now take another 145.5 years to completely close this gap, a significant step backward since last year.
As of January 2021, relative to the situation as of January 2019, the share of women in ministerial positions has decreased or stagnated in about half of the economies assessed and improved in the other half of the economies. However, in only 27 economies are women at least 40% of appointed ministers, and some of the most significant declines took place in large economies, which have a much larger weight in population-weighted averages. For instance, among the economies where the share of women ministers declined the most are India (from 23.1% to 9.1%), Indonesia (from 23.5% to 17.1%), Colombia (from 52.9% to 38.8%) and Poland (from 27.3% to 4.8%). Economies, where the share of women ministers increased the most by January 2021 from January 2019, include Lithuania (from 0 to 42.9%), Belgium (from 35% to 57.1%), the United States (from 21.7% to 46.2%), Serbia (from 19% to 43.5%), Mozambique (from 28.6% to 45.5%) and Lebanon (from 3.4% to 31.6%).
Several economies have more women in parliament than they did in the previous edition. Further, 96 economies reduced gender gaps in parliament, including the most-improved United Arab Emirates (from 22.5% of women parliamentarians to 50%), New Zealand (from 40.8% to 48.3%), Switzerland (from 32.5% to 42.0%), Mali (from 9.5% to 27.3%) and Egypt (from 14.9% to 27.4%). The global average, therefore, overlooks important progress made in many smaller economies, which although impacting fewer women globally, signals a slow but ongoing cultural change in an increasing number of institutions. This is a good sign for further improvement of women’ political empowerment across the world.
As for the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, the gap this year has remained almost as large as last year, with a minor improvement in score from 57.8% in the 2020 edition to 58.0% in the 2021 edition. Since 2006, the score has increased by just 2.4 percentage points, translating to an average per year progress of 0.16 percentage points every year over the 2006–2020 period. As a result, it will take another 267.6 years to close this gap. This figure could well increase once the full effect of the COVID-19 pandemic are reflected in the statistics. Preliminary estimates indicate that it may have an asymmetric effect on women’s economic opportunity, especially in terms of participation in the labour force.
As described in Chapter 2, data available for a set of advanced and emerging economies predict a widening gender gap in labour force participation. A significant part of this effect is due to temporary measures such as school and workplace lockdowns, which may partially be absorbed once the health crisis is resolved. There are, however, questions on potential permanent scars that the crisis may leave on women’s economic opportunities, depending on how inclusive a sustained post-pandemic recovery proves to be.
On Educational Attainment, gender gaps can be fully closed in just 14.2 years. Global performance is unchanged at 96.1%, marking a progress of 4.9% since 2006, or 0.33 percentage points per year.
To close the subindex’s remaining 3.9% global gap would require a rapid progress in many developing and emerging economies, where women still encounter significant challenges to participate in education to the same extent as men. In large economies such as Pakistan, Nigeria, and Ethiopia education gaps are still as great as 15%–20%, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo, they are still as large as 34%. Closing the remaining gender gaps in education is likely to have an outsized effect on the broader conditions and opportunities available to millions of women that live in these and other economies. Finally, the time it would take to close the global Health and Survival gender gap remains undefined. There has been a very slight decline in the global score this year (from 95.7% to 95.6%), which brings the Health and Survival gap to be slightly larger than the Educational Attainment gap.
The gap on Health and Survival has remained substantially stable over the past few years. Although it can be considered virtually closed in most economies, there are still economies—including Qatar (94.8%), Viet Nam (94.5%), Pakistan (94.4%), Azerbaijan (93.9%), India (93.7%) and China (93.5%)— where uneven access to health for women and pre- or post-natal sex selection persist.
The Global Gender Gap Report groups economies 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 economies according to these categories is detailed in Appendix A.
Western Europe is the region that has the narrowest gender gap (77.6% so far) and has further improved this year. North America (76.4%) is ranked second, with an average score five points below Western Europe, followed closely by Latin America and the Caribbean (72.1%), and the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region (71.2%). East Asia and the Pacific is approaching the 70% mark (68.9%), more than a full point ahead of Sub-Saharan Africa (67.2%), which is followed by South Asia (62.3%) and the Middle East and North Africa, which is the region with the widest gap (60.9%).7
Since the inception of the report in 2006, progress towards gender parity has advanced at different relative levels and speeds across the eight regions of the world. Figure 1.5 illustrates the regional variation in the closing of gender gaps closed to date.
Regional performances also differ in terms of speed of convergence towards gender parity. As shown in Figure 1.6, each region appears to be on a different trajectory, progressing at a slightly different pace toward parity between 2006 and today.
In this year’s edition of the index, three of the eight regions improved their performance over 2020 by at least 0.4 percentage points, five regions remain substantially stable (less than +/- 0.5 points) and one region decline by more than 0.5 percentage points. The most-improved region overall in this edition is North America, with an increase of almost 3.5 percentage points. The other two regions that have achieved significant progress are Middle East and North Africa and Western Europe, which have closed their gaps by 0.4 and 0.9 percentage points, respectively, since the last edition. Conversely, the region that has regressed the most this year is South Asia, with a gender gap 3.4 percentage points wider than one year ago, reducing its score from 66.1% to 62.7% (based on the 5 economies assessed in very edition from 2006 to 2021). Among the other regions, the East Asia and Pacific improved by 0.3 points, Latin America and the Caribbean reduced its performance by 0.07 points, while gaps in Sub-Saharan Africa and Eastern Europe and Central Asia widened by 0.39 points and 0.26 points respectively.
As shown in Figure 1.7, overall progress at the index level masks important variations across regions on each of the four dimensions that compose the Global Gender Gap Index. For instance, East Asia and the Pacific, one of the three most-improved regions, has narrowed its gender gaps on three of the four subindexes (Economic Participation, and Opportunity, Educational Attainment and Health and Survival) but has regressed on Political Empowerment. In fact, the Political Empowerment subindex is the area where regional improvement varies the most. Notably, North America has registered the most significant step forward on this subindex. Smaller but significant improvements have been observed in the Western Europe and Middle East and North Africa regions, while there has been almost no change in Latin America and the Caribbean. In contrast, Political Empowerment performance has taken a step backward in South Asia, and to a lesser extent in both East Asia and the Pacific and Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Progress on Economic Participation and Opportunity also varies across regions. East Asia and the Pacific is the most improved region on this subindex (+3 percentage points), counterbalancing its negative performance on Political Empowerment. The region is followed by both Eastern Europe and Central Asia and Western Europe, where scores have increased by 0.7 percentage points. Gender gaps have widened in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, and to a lesser extent in North America. The situation in both Latin America and the Caribbean and in the Middle East and North Africa has remained largely unchanged from one year ago.
Regional variations on both the Educational Attainment and Health and Survival subindexes are narrower. Western Europe registers the most significant improvement (+0.5 percentage points) on Educational Attainment followed by the Middle East and North Africa (+0.2 percentage points), while South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa register the most significant step back (-1.6 and -1.9 percentage points, respectively). The performances of other regions are virtually unchanged.
Similarly, in terms of Health and Survival, only East Asia and the Pacific has shown performance improvements over the previous year. In all other regions, gender gaps are either stagnant or slightly wider than one year ago.
Regional results by subindex level for 2021 are depicted in Figure 1.8. Since 2006, Political Empowerment has consistently been the area with the largest remaining gender gaps across all regions and has in fact further widened in some regions this year. Performance remains poor in the Middle East and North Africa, where only 12.1% of the gap has been closed, as well as in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (14.2%), and East Asia and the Pacific (13.5%).
As mentioned earlier in this report, even the most advanced region in terms of Political Empowerment— Western Europe—has closed just 43.8% of its gap so far. This is almost 10 percentage points more than North America (33.4%). In terms of Health and Survival, gaps are relatively small across all regions, yet an extra push is needed to bridge cross-regional differences, especially in East Asia and the Pacific as well as South Asia. Similarly, Educational Attainment gaps are also relatively small in most regions: with the exception of Sub-Saharan Africa (84.5%), Middle East and North Africa (94.2%), and South Asia (93.3%), 95% of this gap has been closed. Notably, gender parity in education participation has been achieved in both North America and Latin America and the Caribbean, although in some developing economies within Latin America this result masks an overall low level of education for boys and girls alike. Finally, Economic Participation and Opportunity is just behind Political Empowerment, with the lowest scores across all regions. North America, the most advanced region on this dimension with a score of 75.3%, has yet to close less than 25% of its gap, and most of the other regions have yet to close between 26% and 36% of their gaps. South Asia and Middle East and North Africa, however, remain the regions where women are the most disadvantaged in the workforce. With scores of 33.8% and 40.9%, respectively, they have yet to close approximately 60% of the gaps that prevent women from accessing better economic opportunities.
As of 2021, 68.9% of the overall gender gap has been closed in the East Asia and the Pacific. If progress continues at the same pace, it will take another 165.1 years to completely close the gap, almost thirty years longer than the global average. Although the region has improved its average performance the most this year, it will still take more than twice as long as Latin America (68.9 years) and almost three times as long as in Western Europe (52.1 years) to achieve gender parity. Although roughly half of the 20 economies in this vast region have closed at least 70% of their gender gaps, there is a difference of 21.5 percentage points between the best performer (New Zealand, 84.0%) and the lowest performer (Vanuatu, 62.5%).
Economy performances also vary considerably by rate of progress. Twelve economies record at least a marginal improvement, and two economies (New Zealand and Timor-Leste) have registered at least a 4-percentage point improvement in their scores or more, whereas two (Indonesia and Vanuatu) have registered a 1-percentage point decline (or more) in their scores. Timor-Leste (72.0%, 64th globally) stands out as one of the three most-improved economies in the global index this year, with a 5.8% improvement in overall score.
Changes in Economic Participation and Opportunity scores influence a significant part of the overall performance of the region, which is the most improved on this subindex this year, reducing gaps by 3 percentage points and raising the proportion of the gender gap closed to date to 69.6%. The positive performance of large economies—China (+5 percentage points), Republic of Korea (+3.1 percentage points) and Myanmar (+2.7 percentage points)—count for a large part of the regional performance on this dimension this year. Beyond the exceptional performance of these economies, nine of the 20 economies in this region have closed Economic Participation and Opportunity gender gaps by 1 percentage point or more, in a year. However, six economies have registered a widening gap of 2 percentage points or more. These divergent performances reinforce regional divides on Economic Participation and Opportunity: 34.7 percentage points separate the score of the best performing economy (Lao PDR, 91.5%) from the lowest performer (Fiji, 56.8%). Large cross-economy divides are also observed for specific indicators. For instance, while, on average, the region has closed about 80% of the gender gap on labour force participation, Papua New Guinea has already closed 98.2% of its gap, almost twice as much as Fiji (51.2% to date). Another aspect where cross-economy variation within the region remains large is the presence of women in senior and managerial roles. Two economies(Lao PDR and the Philippines) have already achieved gender parity; yet in Korea and Japan, only 18.5% and 17.3%, respectively, of this gap have been closed to date.
Even larger regional cross-economy divides are found in terms of Political Empowerment. New Zealand (the best performer) has closed 63.0% of its gender gap, over 60 percentage points ahead of Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea, which have not yet achieved any progress on this subindex since the inception of the index in 2006. On average, the presence of women in politics is low throughout East Asia and the Pacific, and this region has the second widest Political Empowerment gap among the eight assessed in this report on this dimension (as per Figure 1.8). To date, only 13.5% of the gap has been closed, just ahead of Eastern Europe and Central Asia (14.2%), and Middle East and North Africa (12.2%), but half of what has been already achieved in neighbouring South Asia (28.4%).
Among the factors behind this average poor performance, only 22.7% of parliamentarians and 12.1% of ministers in the region are women, while 11 economies have yet to be led by a woman head of state.
Progress has been unchanged on the Educational Attainment subindex, where 97.6% of the gender gap has been closed. Here, too, cross-economy divides are relatively large. While seven of the 20 economies in this region have almost (over 99.2%) achieved gender parity, Papua New Guinea has yet to close 11% of this gap. Literacy rate gender gaps persist in many economies. In the majority of economies, at least 90% of women are literate, yet there are still places where a large share of women cannot read or write. In Myanmar, for example, the literacy rate among women is only 71.8%; in Timor-Leste, 64.2%; and in Papua New Guinea, 57.9%. In addition, these three economies have closed only 89% of their gender gaps on the entire subindex. It’s important to note that gender gaps in educational access for younger generations are narrower. In primary education, even in the economy where gender gaps are the widest (Papua New Guinea) 93.3% of the gender gap has been closed.
In terms of Health and Survival, 94.9% of the gender gap has closed in East Asia and Pacific; however, there has been virtually no progress made in closing the gap in the last 15 years. Thirteen of the 20 economies in this region have closed at least 97% of their gaps on this subindex. China (93.5%) is the only economy that has yet to close over 5% of its gap, as pre- or post-natal gender selection persists.
Eastern Europe and Central Asia has closed 71.2% of its overall gender gap, which is the fourth-highest regional score, after Western Europe (77.6%), North America (76.4%), and Latin America and the Caribbean (72.1%). The region lags behind Western Europe not only on the proportion closed, but also on the pace of progress. Despite just a five-percentage point difference, the estimated time to close the gender gap is 134.7 years in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, more than twice that of Western Europe (52.1 years).
Within the region, there is considerably lesser disparity compared with others. Overall, 20 of 26 economies in this region have closed at least 70% of their gender gaps. Lithuania has closed the largest proportion (80.4%) and Tajikistan has closed the smallest (65%). Ten economies in this region have improved their scores by at least 1% over last year, including Lithuania, the fourth-most-improved overall, with an increase of 5.9 percentage points. Only four of 26 economies have shown a decline of more than 1%, with Romania showing the greatest decline (2.4 percentage points).
A majority of the change in both Lithuania and Poland can be attributed to changes in the share of women in ministerial positions. While in Lithuania the share of women-ministers increased from 0 to 42.9%, in Poland it reduced from 27.3% to 4.8%.
Because of changes in these and other economies, regionally, Political Empowerment is the subindex that saw the largest change, with a 1 percentage points decrease from its performance one year ago. Similar to most regions, this is also the dimension with the greatest gender disparity: just 14.2% of the Political Empowerment gap has been closed, meaning 86.6% remains to be bridged. This proportion is merely half the progress made in South Asia (28.4%) and just one-third of the progress made in Western Europe (43.8%).
The regional average also masks large disparities between economies on closing the Political Empowerment gender gap. While Serbia (43.7%), Lithuania (42.9%), Albania (37.7%), Latvia (31.3%) and Bosnia and Herzegovina (30.2%) have closed at least 30% of this gap, Russian Federation (8.5%) and Azerbaijan (6.9%) have, to date, closed less than 10% of their gaps. In half of the economies of the region (13 of 26), at least 20% of ministerial positions are held by women, with Albania having the largest proportion (56.3%) and Armenia and Azerbaijan the smallest (0%). The variance is even narrower or the share of women in parliament indicator. In 21 of the 26 economies in the region, the share of women in parliament is at least 20%, with Belarus having the biggest share (40%) and Hungary the smallest (12.6%).
On average, the Eastern Europe and Central Asia region has closed 73.5% of its gender gap on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex— the second-best result in the world, after North America. To date, Belarus (84%) has closed the largest proportion of the gender gap on this subindex while Tajikistan has closed the smallest (57%). The region has one of the world’s highest population-weighted labour force participation rates (84.4%), and 18 of the 26 economies in the region have closed at least 80% of the gender gap in labour force participation. Further, all but Tajikistan have almost achieved (99.4% or higher) gender parity in the proportion of employed women who are professional and technical workers. Despite these developments, the gender gap in estimated earned income has widened significantly over last year, driven by changes in economies such as Albania (–8.2 percentage points), Hungary (–4.6 percentage points) and Armenia (–2.4 percentage points), among others.
Eastern Europe and Central Asia has closed a higher percentage of its Health and Survival gender gap (97.7%) than other regions. Nearly all economies in the region have closed at least 95% of the gap on this subindex. Hungary ranks the highest (98%), and even the economy that has attained the lowest regional performance (Azerbaijan) has closed at least 93.9% of the gap.
For Educational Attainment, too, the gender gap is virtually closed (99.6%), and 23 of the 26 economies in this region have closed their gender gaps (99% or above) on this subindex.
The population-weighted regional score of Latin America and the Caribbean is 72.1%, unchanged from last year, which means that 28.9% of its gender gap has yet to be closed. At this rate it will take the region 68.9 years to close the gap.
On average, economies in this region have closed 72.1% of their gaps, ranging between the highest performer, Nicaragua (79.6%), and the lowest, Guatemala (65.5%). Of the 25 economies in the region that are covered in both this year and the previous edition,15 have improved their overall scores and 10 have registered a negative result relative to the previous edition. Three economies (Belize, El Salvador and Suriname) stand out this year for closing their gender gap by over 2.3 percentage points in one year. The most improved, El Salvador, has reduced its gap by 3.2 percentage points, climbing to 43rd globally, due mainly to significant progress in integrating women among senior officials (44.3% of senior officials are women) and ministers (43.8%).
Taking stock of the regional situation across the four subindexes, it emerges that gender parity in Educational Attainment has nearly been achieved (99.7%). Eleven economies have attained full parity, and another 11 have attained a score between 99.8% and 99.0%, while in just three economies— Peru (98.1%), Bolivia (98.1%) and the lowest performer Guatemala (96.9%)—large gender gaps in education have yet to be bridged. Similarly, most economies in the region grant almost equal Health and Survival conditions to both men and women. Nine economies have achieved full gender parity and another 10 have closed over 97% of their gaps on this subindex and even the lowest performer (Bolivia, 96.2%) has closed more than 96% of this gap.
In terms of the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, the average regional score is 64.2%, unchanged since last year. However, the best performer, Bahamas (85.7%), is almost 30 percentage points ahead of the worst performer, Guatemala (56.0%). Within this range, the average economy in the region has closed 67.4% of its economic gender gap.
Disparities in labour force participation are even starker. The best performer in the region (Barbados) has closed 93.5% of its gap, with 75.2% of its women in the labour force, while in Guatemala, only 48.1% of this gap has been closed, with just 42.5% of the women participating in the labour market. On average, the proportion of women participating in the labour market across the region stands at 59%. Among the largest economies, Mexico has low participation (49.1%), while in Brazil, Chile, Argentina and Colombia women’s participation is only between 59.1% and 61.9%.
Parallel disparities remain in terms of income and wages. Only in Barbados are women’s and men’s income relatively similar (women’s income is about 86.8% of that of men’s), while on average throughout the region, women’s income is about 60% of men’s, and in Guatemala, Nicaragua and Venezuela, it is less than 50%.
The situation is more mixed with respect to the presence of women in senior positions. There are at least as many women as men in five economies: Colombia, Jamaica, Honduras, Belize and Bahamas. With a score of 100% on this indicator, these economies are almost 60 percentage points ahead of the lowest regional performer (Bolivia), where only 29.2% of senior professionals are women. On average throughout the region, 40% of senior officials are women.
Results on the Political Empowerment subindex are also mixed. Although the region has closed, on average 26.9% of this gap (the fourth-best result), significant divides persist in the region. Two economies, Nicaragua (5th) and Costa Rica (8th), rank in the subindex top 10 globally, with scores of 60.6% and 54.5%, respectively. Yet the region is also the home of two of the bottom 20 economies in terms of Political Empowerment: Bahamas (146th) has only closed 6.4% of its gap and Belize (140th) 7.5%.
These differences are better understood when looking at the presence of women among parliamentarians and ministers. In six economies— Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico and Nicaragua—at least 40% of lower-house seats are occupied by women, while in Belize, Bahamas, Paraguay and Brazil, 15% or less of the lower house seats are held by women. When it comes to ministerial positions, five economies (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua and Peru) have at least 40% of these positions held by women, while in Guatemala, Belize, Brazil and Bahamas, women are underrepresented, with a share of 13.3% or less.
With an average population-weighted score of 60.9%%, the Middle East and North Africa region has the largest gender gap (about 40%) yet to be closed. The progress is slow, and it will take 142.4 years to close the gender gap.
On average, economies in this region have closed about 61.6% of their overall gender gaps (including only the economies that were covered throughout the period 2006-2021), and the average is even lower (60.9%) when taking into account all economies. Some of the lowest-performing economies in the world and in this region include Yemen, 155th (49.2%) and Iraq, 154th (53.5%). The United Arab Emirates and Israel, however, are significantly further ahead, having closed 71.6% and 72.4% respectively, of their gaps to date, placing them 72nd and 60th, respectively, in the global ranking.
Thirteen of the 19 economies in the region assessed in both the 2020 and 2021 editions of the index have registered a positive trend compared to one year ago, while six have shown a decline. The most-improved economy in the region this year, the United Arab Emirates, has managed to close 6 percentage points in just one year, and the second most-improved, Lebanon, has closed an additional 3.8 percentage points of its gender gap, starting from an even lower position. Both economies’ progress is mainly thanks to improvements on the Political Empowerment subindex. In the United Arab Emirates, the number of women parliamentarians increased from 22% to 50%, and in Lebanon women minsters increased from 3.4% to 31.6% this year.
Looking at each of the four dimensions of the Global Gender Gap Index, Health and Survival has seen the most substantial regional progress achieved so far (96.5% gap closed). While no economy has yet achieved full parity, most economies have closed at least 96% of their gap. Only Qatar (94.8%) remains below the 95.5% mark.
The Educational Attainment gender gap, on average, is also relatively advanced (94.2%), yet still below par compared to other regions. Although only Israel has completely closed its gap, 16 of 19 economies have closed at least 94% of their educational gap. However, in three economies— Iraq (80.7%), Mauritania (87.9%) and Yemen (71.7%)—women still have significantly lower access to education compared to men.
When it comes to Economic Participation and Opportunity, the average regional score is 40.9%, which is the second-lowest among all regions. This is primarily because the three lowest global performers on this dimension— Iraq (22.8%), Syria (28.5%) and Yemen (28.2%)—are in this region, and another six economies have closed less than 46% of their gaps. Israel (70.5%) is the only economy in the region that has closed at least 70% of this gap.
Low levels of women’s labour force participation are an important driver of lack of economic participation. The region’s average participation rate is 31%, and seven of the 19 economies (Egypt, Algeria, Iran, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and Yemen) in the region have 20% or less of women participating in the labour market, the lowest rates in the world. If labour force participation is already limited, equal outcomes on leadership or managerial positions are rarer still. On average, less than 18% of managers in the region are women; and in some economies, women represent less than 10%, including in Syria (8.9%), Algeria (8.4%), Egypt (7.4%), Saudi Arabia (6.8%) and Yemen (4.1%). Only in Jordan are there at least as many women managers as men.
Another important factor that limits economic opportunities of women in the region is lack of access to financial assets, including bank accounts. Combined with low presence in the workplace, this drives stark income differences between men and women. Six of the index’s 10 lowest-ranked economies in terms of income gender gaps are in this region. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, a woman’s income is on average only 24% that of a man, and in Egypt, 22%; in Algeria, 19%; in Iran, 18%; in Iraq, 12%; and in Yemen, 7%. Even in Israel, women’s income is only 61% of that of a man.
The limited presence of women in positions of power is also reflected in very large Political Empowerment, gaps. Despite the fact that the Middle East and North Africa is the geography that has progressed the most on this aspect after both North America and Western Europe (+1.9 percentage points), the region has closed only 12.1% of this gap to date, the lowest of all regions. Only one economy, the United Arab Emirates, ranks among the top 25 economies globally, and three economies (Israel, Tunisia and Egypt) have closed between 20% and 22.7% of their Political Empowerment gaps so far. All other economies in the region fall below 90th position in the subindex ranking, with only 15.1% (or less) of their gaps closed.
With the exception of the United Arab Emirates, where there are as many women as men in the parliament, women make up just 18.3% of parliamentarians across the region, and in five economies women represent 6% or less of lower house members: Yemen (0.3%), Kuwait (1.5%), Oman (2.3%), Lebanon (4.7%) and Iran (5.6%).
Similarly, in terms of ministerial positions, no economy in the region boasts more than 31% of women in these roles. In eight out of 19 economies women number less than 10%, and in Yemen and Saudi Arabia there are no women ministers at all. Further, only two economies (Israel and Turkey) have had a woman head of state in the past 50 years.
Following the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia is the second-lowest performer on the index, with 62.3% of its overall gender gap closed. In addition, progress has been too slow in the recent past, and this year has actually reversed. A decline of approximately 3 percentage points has resulted in a significant delay in the projected time needed for this region to close gender gaps, now estimated at 195.4 years. Within the region, a wide gulf separates the best-performing economy, Bangladesh, which has closed 71.9% of its gender gap so far, from Afghanistan, which has only closed 44.4% of its gap. India is the third-worst performer in the region, having closed 62.5% of its gap. Because of its large population, India’s performance has a substantial impact on the region’s overall performance. Home to 0.65 billion women, India has widened its gender gap from almost 66.8% closed one year ago to 62.5% this year. In addition, only Bhutan and Nepal have demonstrated small but positive progress towards gender parity this year, while all other economies in this region have registered either slightly reduced or stagnant performances.
One of the most pressing areas for advancement for South Asia is the gender gap on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, where only 33.8% of the gender gap is closed, the lowest globally. Within the region, there are economies where economic gaps are even wider: Afghanistan has only closed 18% of this gender gap, which is over 45 percentage points lower than the regional champion, Nepal (63%). The three other largest economies in the region are not much further ahead: India and Pakistan have only closed 32.6% and 31.6% of its Economic Participation and Opportunity gap while Bangladesh has closed 41.8%. Notably, economic gaps in these two economies are even wider than they were one year ago. India’s score declined by 3 percentage points and Bangladesh’s by 2 percentage points.
Lack of progress on women’s labour force participation hinders economic opportunities for women not only in these economies, but also throughout the region. Only 22.3% of women in India, 22.6% in Pakistan, and 38.4% in Bangladesh are active in the labour market. On average in the region, the women’s labour force participation rate is 51% of the male labour force participation rate. In Nepal, however, over 85% of women participate in the labour force.
Gender gaps are equally large or more pronounced in segments of the job market requiring higher skills. The regional average share of professional and technical roles taken by women is 32.6%. In India, only 29.2% of technical roles are held by women, and in Pakistan the share is 25.3% and in Afghanistan 19.3%. The presence of women in senior roles is even more rare: women make up just 4.1% in Afghanistan, 4.9% in Pakistan, 10.7% in Bangladesh and 14.6% in India. As a result, the disparity in income between men and women is large in most economies. In Pakistan and Afghanistan, the income of an average woman is below 16% of that of an average man, while in India it is 20.7%. Only in Nepal and Bhutan is the gap lower than 50%, as the income earned by a woman is 74% and 58%, respectively, of that of a man.
Gender gaps on the Political Empowerment subindex are also stark across the region and have further widened this year. Only 28.1% of this gender gap has been bridged to date, down from 38.7% reported in the last edition. The decline in the share of women among ministers in some of the most populous economies explains most of the regional decline. In India the share of women ministers decreased from 23.1% to 9.1%, and in Pakistan from 12% to 10.7%. Women remain acutely underrepresented in the political sphere in this region. In no economy is the share of women in parliament above 33%. In the three most populous economies, the share lies between 14 and 20%, and in some economies, it is as low as 5.4% (Sri Lanka) and 4.6% (Maldives). On a more positive note, women have held head-of-state positions at least once in the past 50 years in five of the seven economies in this region, and in Bangladesh women have held the office of head of state longer than men. Only Bhutan and Maldives have never had a woman head of state in their recent history.
Progress is relatively more advanced in terms of Educational Attainment, where 93.3% of the regional gender gap has been closed. Yet differences remain across economies and across education levels. Female literacy rates are as low as 53.7% in Afghanistan, 65.8% in India, 59.7% in Nepal, 57% in Bhutan and 46.5% in Pakistan, with little sign of closing in the near future. The hope of closing educational gender gaps lies with the younger generation, but not everywhere. While in five of the seven economies in the region at least 98% of the gender gap in primary enrolment has been closed, in Pakistan and Nepal only 84.1% and 87%, respectively, has been closed. Ensuring access to education for young girls is an essential pre-condition to equip future generations of women with the tools to be included in all levels of society at the same level as men.
Another aspect that limits faster progress in gender parity in South Asia is Health and Survival: only 94.2% of the gap on this subindex has been closed to date. Notably, the low performance of large economies such as India (93.7%) and Pakistan (94.4%) can be traced to the persistence of son preference and sex selective practices, preventing a faster evolution toward parity on this dimension.
The overall gender gap in Sub-Saharan Africa is 32.7%, as only 67.2% of the gap has been closed so far. Progress seems stalled, even slightly reversed, such that it will take 121.7 years to close the gender gap.
Of the 35 economies in this region, only Namibia and Rwanda have closed at least 80% of their gaps. Eleven economies have closed between 70 and 78% of their gaps, another 19 economies between 60 and 69% and three economies (Mali, Chad and Congo, Dem Rep.) have closed less than 60% of their gap (59.1% for Mali and Chad and 57.6% for Democratic Republic of Congo).
More than half of the economies in the region (20 out of 35) have progressed towards gender parity, including the most improved, Togo, which began from a low base (61.5%) to reach 68.3% this year. Namibia, Mozambique and Eswatini have also improved significantly (2.5 percentage points or more), allowing them to jump up by several places in the global ranking.
Within the four dimensions measured by the index, Sub-Saharan Africa has closed a significant part of its gender gaps in Health and Survival (97.3%), although slightly declining from the previous edition. Eleven economies have achieved gender parity on this subindex, another 21 have closed between 96.5% and 97% of their gaps, and only Niger (96.4%), Liberia (96.2%) and Mali (95.9%) have closed less than 96.5% of their gaps. However, healthy life expectancy of both men and women is still low across many economies in the region. In only two economies (Cape Verde and Mauritius) are men expected to live more than 60 years at birth, while in some economies, life expectancy is lower than 50, as in Lesotho where healthy life expectancy is 42.3 for men and 46.4 for women. Therefore, improving health conditions for all, in addition to narrowing gender gaps in health, remains a priority for the region.
In terms of Educational Attainment, Sub-Saharan Africa lags behind the other regions, with only 84.5% of this gap closed to date. Although six economies (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa, Mauritius and Eswatini) have closed 99% of this gap, 8 economies have yet to close more than 20% of this gap, and gender disparities in education of over 30% remain in Guinea (68%), Congo, Dep Rep. (65.8%) and Chad (58.9%).
Even at basic levels of education, gender gaps persist in several economies. In 18 of the 35 economies in Sub-Saharan Africa, there are still gaps of more than 20% in literacy rates between adult men and women, with extremely low levels in Chad (44.5% of the literacy gap closed so far, with only 14% of women been able to read), Guinea (50% gap closed to date), Liberia (54.4% gap closed to date), Mali (55.7% gap closed to date) and Benin (57.6% gap closed to date). Although literacy rates are also low for men throughout the region—between 62% and 31%—women are still relatively more excluded from access to most basic skills.
The situation is better among younger generations, with 99% (or more) gender parity achieved in primary education enrolment in 12 economies out of 35. Even today, however, there are economies where not all children of primary school age go to school and young girls have less access to education than young boys. For instance, in Angola and Nigeria only 67.3% and 58.1% of girls, respectively, go to school, leading to gender gaps of between 76% and 83%. Similarly, while 17 economies have already achieved gender parity in secondary education enrolment, there are still another 14 economies where 10% of the gap or more has yet to be bridged. In Chad, only 12.3% of girls are enrolled in secondary education, translating into a gap yet to bridge of over 54%.
At higher levels of education, the disparities actually widen. Only six economies have achieved gender parity in tertiary education enrolment, despite relatively low rates for both men and women. Conversely, 17 economies have closed less than 70% of their gaps, and eight of them have closed less than 50%.
On a more positive note, Sub-Saharan Africa has closed 66.1% of its Economic Participation and Opportunity gender gap, the fifth-best result among the eight regions analysed in this report. The median performance across the region on this subindex is 69.3%. However, large cross-economy disparities remain. While seven Sub-Saharan economies are among the 20 economies in the world that have closed at least 79% of this gap, there are three economies that have yet to close more than 44% of their gap. The best performer, Burundi (85.5%), is 38 percentage points ahead of the lowest-ranked economy in the region (Mali, 47.5%). Notably, both Togo and Côte d’Ivoire have improved significantly this year. In both economies, the main driver of the improvement has been a significant increase in the number of women senior officials, as gender parity in senior roles has progressed by 57 percentage points in Togo and 80 percentage points in Côte d’Ivoire. In addition, income disparities in Togo have decreased by 20 percentage points.
Although many economies in this region are considered low-income economies where employment opportunities are relatively scarce, in 23 of the 35 economies at least 60% of women participate in the labour market. These include Rwanda and Burundi, where although women’s labour force participation is 83.7% and 78.2%, respectively, these rates are very close to those of men; as well as Madagascar, where 95% of the labour force participation’s gender gap has been closed and 84.7% of women are in the labour force. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are two economies where less than 70% of the labour participation gender gap has been closed. These are: Mauritius, where 52.8% of women are in the labour force, with a 66% gap closed so far, and in Senegal, where only 36.4% of women are in the labour force, corresponding to a gender gap of 62%.
Although many African women are in the labour force, relatively few make it to senior positions. Additionally, there are very large divides within the region. The median level of women in senior roles is 33%, and while there are four economies (Burkina Faso, Botswana, Côte d’Ivoire and Togo) where there are almost as many women as men in senior positions, there are another three economies (Malawi, Gambia and Mali) where women are only 15.6% to 17.5% of the senior officials, which means that over 80% of the gender gap has yet to be closed.
Cross-economy disparities are also wide in terms of income and wages. In Zambia, Burundi and Liberia, less than 3% of the income gap remains to be closed, although income levels are low for both men and women. Fourteen economies have bridged between 70% and 84% of their gaps and another 16 economies have closed 47.6% to 69% of the gap. In only two economies is women’s income less than 30% of that of men: Ghana (29.2%) and Mali (28.1%).
These divides are present in the political system as well. Sub-Saharan Africa has on average closed just 20.8% of its gender gap in Political Empowerment, yet four economies are among the top 20 globally with over 46% of this gap closed so far, while seven economies have closed under 10% of the gap to date, placing them in the bottom 20 of the global sub-index rankings.
Among the best performers are Rwanda (6th), which has closed 56.3% of its Political Empowerment gap, Mozambique (13th, 49.3%), South Africa (14th, 49.3%) and Namibia (19th, 46.3%). In Rwanda, gender parity has been fully achieved in the share of ministerial positions and parliamentary positions held by women. In other economies the situation is more mixed; yet, over one half of the economies in this region count at least 20% of women among ministers and parliamentarians. For instance, South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique are among the economies with relatively high (40%) presence of women among both ministers and parliamentarians. In other economies women are better represented in one of the two political functions but not the other. For example, in Senegal, 44% of parliamentarians are women, while in Ethiopia, 40% of ministers are women. There are economies, however, where progress is far less advanced. These include Nigeria, where only 5.8% of parliamentarians and 10.3% of ministers are women, as well as Benin and Burkina Faso, where women in parliament hold only 8.4% of 6.3% of the seats, respectively.
Western Europe continues to be the best-performing region and has further improved this year. It has closed 77.6% of its overall gender gap, up from 76.7% one year ago. If progress continues at the same rate, it will take 52.1 years to close the gender gap. Six of the top 10 economies in the index are from this region: Iceland (89.2%), Finland (86.1%), Norway (84.9%), Sweden (82.3%), Ireland (80%) and Switzerland (79.8%).
Beyond the top 10, another nine economies have closed at least three fourths of the gender gap. Of the 20 economies in this region, only Greece (68.9%) has yet to reach the 70% mark. Overall regional improvement this year has been driven by the fact that 17 of the 20 economies, including the four most populous, have at least marginally improved their performance.
Among the economies that have improved the most, Belgium closed its gap by 3.9 percentage points this year, reaching a rank of 13th, mainly due to a significant increase in the share of women in ministerial positions (from 25% to 57.1%).
Other fast-improving economies are Austria, which closed its gap by 3.3 percentage points and reached the 21st position in the ranking, and Portugal, which closed its gap by 3.1 percentage points and reached the 22nd position. Both economies have shown sustained progress in the share of women in parliament (Austria, 39.9% up from 37.2%; and Portugal 40%, up from 35.6% over the past edition) as well as in ministerial positions (Austria 57.1%, up from 38.5%; Portugal 42.1%, up from 29.4% the past edition). These two economies have also improved the presence of women among managers (Austria 33.2%, +31.6%, and Portugal 37.1% +7.6%).
On the opposite end of the performance spectrum, gender gaps have widened in Greece by 1.4 percentage points, mainly due to a sharp decline in the share of women in ministerial positions (10.5%, -14.5 percentage points).
As in other regions, Political Empowerment is the subindex where some of the largest gender gaps persist. Even though Western Europe is the most advanced geography at including women in politics, on average only 43.8% of the gender gap on this subindex is closed. Further, this average masks the large divide between economies where gaps are relatively small, such as Iceland (76.0%), Finland (66.9%) and Norway (64%), and economies that have yet to closed two-thirds of their gaps (Luxemburg, Malta, Greece and Cyprus). As a result, 63.7 percentage points separate Iceland from Greece, which has only closed 12.3% of its Political Empowerment gap. Notably, economies where women and men are equally represented in parliament and among ministers co-exist with economies where women are only 15% of the parliamentarians.
Large cross-economy divides also persist in the workplace. Although on average Western Europe has closed 70% of its gender gap on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex—second only to Eastern Europe and Central Asia (73.8%)— there are 24 percentage points between Iceland (84.6%) and Italy (61.9%), the lowest-ranked economy in the region on this dimension. One of the most important differentiating factors of cross-economy performances in the region is the extent to which women are in managerial positions.
Among the top performers, at least 40% of managerial roles are women: in Iceland, for instance, they make up 41.9% and in Sweden, 40.3%. Conversely, women comprise only 28% in Italy and 21% in Cyprus. A second differentiating factor is the regional divide in terms of income gap. Almost 30 percentage points separate the economy that has progressed the most on this aspect, Sweden (82.2%), from Malta, where only 53.6% of the income gap has been closed.
Much smaller cross-regional differences are found in Educational Attainment and Health and Survival subindex performance, where the gaps that remain to close are as little as 0.2% and 3.3%, respectively. There are still economies, however, where gaps are slightly larger than regional averages.
The North America region averages the performance of just two economies: the United States and Canada. Their average (population-weighted) score is 76.4%, a strong improvement since the past edition (+3.5 percentage points). Because of this step forward, it will now take 61.5 years to close the gender gap in this region. While the Educational Attainment (100%) and the Health and Survival (96.9%) gender gaps are almost closed, a significant part of this year’s progress is related to improvements in the Political Empowerment subindex, where the region narrowed its gap from 18.4% to 33.4%. Both the United States and Canada made great strides in increasing the presence of women in parliament and in ministries. In the United States, the share of women in the congress rose from 23.6% to 27.3% and the presence of women in ministerial positions from 21.7% to 46.2%. In Canada the share of women in the parliament rose from 26.9% to 29.6% and the presence of women in ministerial positions from 50% to 51.4%. However, in Canada, a woman has been in a head-of-state position for only 0.3 years over the past 50 and in the United States, there has never been a woman as president.
Moreover, while there has been rapid progress in closing Political Empowerment gender gaps in the region this year, there is still a long way to go to close Economic Participation and Opportunity gaps. To date, 75.3% of this gap has been closed, virtually unchanged since a year ago. The main priorities in this region are, first, to include more women in senior positions, as only 35% of managers in Canada and 42.2% in the United States are women; and second, to reduce gaps in wages and income, where both Canada and the United States have yet to close over 30% of their gaps.
This section provides a short commentary for selected economies—namely, the 10 best performers, listed in rank order, on the overall Global Gender Gap Index and the 15 most populous economies in the world, listed in alphabetical order. Together, they are home to approximately 2.5 billion women, accounting for 65% of the world’s female population.
Once again, Iceland (1st) tops in closing the highest proportion of its gender gap (89.2%), which is 1.5 percentage points more than last year, and 3.1 percentage points ahead of the second-ranked Finland. Iceland’s leadership in the rankings is driven by strong performance across all the four dimensions measured by the index, including having closed already 76% of its Political Empowerment gap, the best performance in the world, while continuing to improve. Iceland has in fact closed political gender gaps by another 5.9 percentage points since last year’s edition.
An important distinguishing factor is the fact that Iceland is one of the few economies where women have been in the highest institutional positions in the economy for almost as long as men in the past 50 years. A woman has been in a head-of-state position in 23.5 of the past 50 years, second only to Bangladesh, where women have been in this role for over 27 years. Further, 39.7% of parliamentarians and 40% of ministers in Iceland are women.
In addition to political gender gaps, Iceland has nearly closed its gender gap on the Health and Survival (96.4%) and Educational Attainment (99.9%) subindexes. However, despite boys and girls having similar access to all levels of education, the next challenge is to improve women’s participation and enrolment in fields of education most relevant for the job market, currently, and in the future. For instance, only 10.25% of female graduates choose to pursue a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) track. In contrast, one-third (26.6%) of the total male graduates attain a degree in these fields. This may slow down future progress in closing the gender gaps in the workplace, even though Iceland has already closed 84.6% of its Economic Participation and Opportunity gender gap, ranking 4th globally. For example, 84.3% of women participate in the labour force today and are employed in professional and technical roles at higher rates than men. Women are also highly visible in senior or managerial positions, representing 41.9% of senior roles and 45.9% of the board members. One important driver of the high presence of women in the workplace is the fact that Iceland is one of the OECD economies with the highest proportion of GDP spent on childcare. Nonetheless, there are still important areas where gender parity is yet to be achieved: women still work part time at a higher rate than men (47.8% compared to 27.9% of men). Further, there is still no gender parity in income and wages. Women’s estimated earned income is still 73.7% of that of men, and a gap of 24% on the wage equality for similar work indicator that has yet to be bridged.
Finland (2nd) has gained one position this year, ahead of Norway. The economy has closed 86.1% of its overall gender gap, up from 83.2% in the previous edition. This improvement can be attributed to the substantial progress (over 10.5 percentage points) in closing its Political Empowerment gender gap. Thanks to this improvement, it has now closed 66.9% of its gap on this subindex, thus improving its overall global rank. This result is due to a strong increase in the number of women in ministerial positions (from 37.5% to 50%), complemented by the fact that the Prime Minister since 2019 is a woman. However, this is not the first time that there has been a female head of state. In fact, in Finland there has been a woman in this position for 13 of the last 50 years. Further, 46% of parliamentarians are women, the 9th highest share in the world.
A significant contributor to Finland’s climb to the second position has been the improvement on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex: 80.6% of this gap has been closed to date, the 13th best result in the world, which is almost 2 percentage points better than last year’s edition (78.8%). An important area where Finland has improved this year is the increased presence of women in senior and managerial roles, where women currently represent 36.9% of the total, an increase of about five percentage points. This is an important step towards achieving gender parity at work in an economy where already 76.6% of women actively participate in the labor force, and where there are more women in professional and technical roles than men. Despite these improvements, women’s estimated earned income is just 72.1% of men’s. Once again, differences in hours worked and childcare responsibilities contribute to earning disparities between genders: to date, half of the employed women work part-time while maternity leave support is about three-fourths of the gross annual wage.
Another ongoing bottleneck to improving economic opportunities for women is participation in STEM disciplines, currently preferred by only 12.4% of women graduates, compared to 49.8% of men graduates. Yet Finland has already closed Educational Attainment gender gaps at all levels of education—and encouraging women to study disciplines traditionally dominated by men represents the next frontier on the path to gender parity.
Norway (3rd) has closed 84.9% of its overall gender gap to date and its rank remains unchanged from the previous edition. There has been progress on some dimensions and taken a little step back on others. Among the areas where it has improved, Norway has closed political empowerment gender gaps by about 4 percentage points relative to the previous edition. So far, 64% of this gap has been closed, ranking 3rd globally. This year’s improvement is mainly due to an additional period in which a woman has been head of state, and marginal improvements in the share of women in parliament (44.4%, up from 40.8% in the previous edition). The share of women holding ministerial positions, however, have declined from 42% to 38.9% this year.
Among the dimensions where gaps have slightly widened in Norway is Economic Participation and Opportunity, where 79.2% of the gender gap has been closed, 0.6 percentage points lower than one year ago, ranking the economy 20th. This has been driven by a slight decline in gender parity in labour force participation. Although 75.6% of women are in the labour market, their share with respect to that of men has decreased. In parallel, part-time employment among women (58.4%) is now more than that of men (41.2%). A second factor widening gaps in the workplace is the declining share of women in senior roles. About 34.5% of senior roles (legislators, senior officials and managers) are held by women this year, versus 35.6% reported one year ago. In addition, gender gaps in wage and income remain, although 79.2% of the estimated earned income gap and 74.5% of the wage equality gap have been closed so far (meaning over 20% of these gaps are yet to be closed). Further, Norway has already closed 100% of its Educational Attainment gaps and has also closed 96.4% of its Health and Survival gender gap.
New Zealand (4th) has closed 84% of its overall gender gap and has climbed two places from last year. New Zealand improved its Political Empowerment score by about 15.6 percentage points, so that nearly 63% of this gap has closed to date, the fourth-best result worldwide. Another year has passed with a woman as head of state, leading to a total of 14.1 years of the last 50. This explains most of the New Zealand’s progress on this subindex. Other political gender gaps have also reduced: the share of women in parliament is now at 48.3% and that of women in ministerial positions is at 40%. Gender gaps on both Educational Attainment and Health and Survival remain closed, unchanged since last year.
Performance on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex has also improved: 76.3% of this gap has been closed to date, 1 percentage point greater than one year ago. This is driven by wider participation of women in the labour force (76.8%, + 1 percentage point), and narrower gaps in wages (71.9%, 1 percentage point) and income (63.7% +2 percentage points). In addition, the share of women in professional and technical roles remains high (over 50%). Despite this progress, New Zealand still has some important gaps to close in the world of work. Income and wages gaps are still relatively large, and there are still too few women in managerial roles. The split in these roles remains 40:60, with men representing over 60% of members listed on companies’ boards.
Sweden (5th) has closed 82.3% of its overall gender gap, just 0.3 percentage points higher than the score reported in the past edition. On the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex Sweden has improved by 2 percentage points, leading to a gender gap closed to date of about (81%, 11th). This improvement is mainly due to smaller gender gaps in estimated earned income (82.3% this year, versus 76.9% in the previous edition), share of women in senior roles (40.3%, compared to 38.6% the last edition) and share of women on boards of listed companies (37.5%, +1.2% over last edition).
In addition to these small improvements, Sweden remains one of the economies offering the most gender-equal conditions for childcare: 78% of annual gross wages are covered during maternity leave, public spending on childcare is 1.6% of GDP (second only to Finland). However, Sweden has yet to bridge nearly half of its Political Empowerment gender gap (52.2%). Although 47% of seats in the parliament and 57.1% of ministerial positions are held by women, Sweden is the only top-5 economy in the Global Gender Gap Index that has never had a woman as head of state.
Namibia (6th) enters the top 10 for the first time, after having closed its overall gender gap by almost 2.5 percentage points in one year, to achieve a score of 80.9%. Namibia had already closed its Health and Survival gap by 98% as well as 100% of its Educational Attainment gender gap, with twice as many women as men enrolled in tertiary education. The economy moves ahead in the rankings this year due to the substantial increase in women in ministerial positions (from 20% to 39.1%) as well as one more year (since 2015) with a woman in the Prime Minister’s office. This progress, combined with the fact that 44.2% of parliamentarians are women, places Namibia among the 19 economies in the world with the smallest Political Empowerment gender gap (46.3% has been closed so far). Gender parity is also progressing in the workplace, albeit more slowly. The Economic Opportunity and Participation gender gap has narrowed by 0.5 percentage points this year, such that 79.4% of this gap has been closed so far. Relatively high participation in education, helps women to be employed in skilled occupations more than men (55.9%). Further, in parallel with the strong presence of women in politics, the integration of women in leadership roles in the workplace is also relatively advanced: 43.5% of senior roles have been held by women, thus closing a gender gap of 77.2%, and also contributing to narrowing income gaps. This year’s 3.4 percentage points’ progression makes the average income of a Namibian woman today about 82.1% of that of a man, among the 10 smallest income gender gaps in the world. Income gaps, however, are still relatively large as there is still almost a 20% gap to close, and business leaders report a still relatively slow progress in reducing wage gaps (64.2% closed so far), highlighting persistent barriers to reward women at the same levels as men. Similarly, women still participate less in the job market than men. Only 57.2% of women were in the labour force in 2019, and although the participation rate of men is also relatively low (64.2%), a gap of almost 10% separates women from men. There are also inequalities in accessing financial and real estate assets and not all women have the same inheritance rights as men.
Rwanda (7th) has closed 80.5% of its overall gender gap, the highest among Sub-Saharan African economies. Rwanda ‘s score is 1.4 percentage points higher compared to the last edition, leading to a climb of two positions in a year. Notably, Rwanda has narrowed its Economic Participation and Opportunity gender gap by almost 5 percentage points, reaching 48th globally on this dimension, with a score of 72.6%. The share of women in senior and managerial roles has doubled since the previous edition (from 14.1% to 28.6%). However, this change took five years to achieve, as the data reported one year ago referred to the year 2014 (it has been updated with 2019 data). Another important improvement is the increased share of women in professional and technical roles (+1.7 percentage points). As of 2020, over 40% of these roles are currently held by women, and this increase signals greater competence and skill improvement of Rwanda’s women. In addition, women now participate in the labour force more than men (84.4%) and wage equality is progressing at a fast pace (80.9% gap closed). Nonetheless, substantial gender gaps remain: 83.4% of women work in the informal sector, and/or are in low-wage occupations, leading to incomes that are, on average, about 60% of those of men. Further, women in managerial roles are only 28.6% of the total, highlighting a divergence between the relatively high rate of overall participation and presence in leadership roles. Rwanda ranks 6th in terms of Political Empowerment, with 56.3% of this gap now closed, thanks to a stronger presence of women than men both in parliament and among ministers, as well as a woman in a head of state positions, albeit for less than one year (0.7 years).
Rwanda has already achieved gender parity on the Health and Survival subindex; however, several aspects of healthcare need to be improved. Maternal mortality continues to be relatively high (248 deaths per 100,000 live births) and less than one-half of women have had at least four visits for antenatal care. Similarly, in terms of Educational Attainment, although 95.7% of the gender gap has been closed, just over two-thirds of women are literate, about 39% girls are enrolled in secondary school and only 6% in tertiary education. While these levels are similar to those of men, educational opportunities need to be enhanced for all.
Lithuania (8th) is the fourth-most improved economy of this edition, progressing by an impressive 5.9 percentage points in one year, from a score of 74.5% to 80.4%. This change is mainly driven by an increase in the number of women in ministerial positions. The share of women in the cabinet that took office at the end of 2020 grew from 0 to 42.9%. In addition, the share of women in parliament increased further from 21.3% to 27.7%, and a woman was elected as prime minister in 2020. Because of these changes, the political gender gap in Lithuania has reduced by over 22 percentage points, projecting the economy from the 65th position in the subindex to the 22nd. Lithuania has already achieved parity in the Health and Survival subindex and is narrowing the Economic Participation and Opportunity gender gap, which reduced this year by 1.3 percentage points, passing the 80% mark (80.8%).
Among the drivers of this progress, gender parity in labour force participation increased this year, to reach 97.3%, with over 77.2% of women active in the labour market, and 69.5% of professional and technical roles assumed by women. Income and wage gaps are narrowing as well. Wage equality now stands at 72.5% (2.7 percentage points narrower than a year ago) and income equality stands at 77.9% (1.6 percentage points narrower than a year ago). Women are, however, still lagging behind in the private sector where they constitute just 39% of all senior officials and managers and 12% of board members of listed companies. Although women are highly educated and are enrolled in tertiary education at a higher rate than men (84% to 61%), there are still small but persistent gaps in primary education enrolment (99.6% gap closed to date). In addition, the percentage of women attaining STEM degrees (out of all women graduates) is four times smaller than men’s. Incentivizing women to enter technical fields would further support reducing the remaining barriers in the workplace.
Ireland (9th) has closed 80.0% of its overall gender gap. The economy’s performance mirrors that of the past edition, with only marginal changes across the 14 indicators of the index. Ireland has nearly achieved gender parity on Educational Attainment (99.8%) and Health and Survival (96.4%). Ireland also ranks among the top 11 economies in terms of Political Empowerment, where 50.4% of the gap has been closed to date. This result has been achieved mainly because Ireland has the third-highest number of years served by a female head of state in the last 50 (20.8%), although the presence of women in parliament (22.5%) and ministerial positions (28.6%) is relatively low compared to other top-ten economies. When it comes to Economic Participation and Opportunity, 73.3% of the subindex gender gap is now closed, which places the economy 43rd worldwide. Over 50% of professional and technical roles are held by women, and the labour force participation gaps stands at 15%, with 67.6% women participating in the labour force. On the other hand, the share of women in senior officials and manager positions remains low (35.3%), which corresponds to just 54.5% of this gap closed to date. Similarly, wide financial disparities remain. Only 69.0% of the wage equality gap and 66.6% of the income gap have been closed so far, with only marginal improvements over the past few editions.
Further, only 35.3% of senior or managerial roles are held by women, corresponding to a score of 54.5% (62nd globally). Combined with relatively low attainment rates in STEM disciplines (14.1%) and vocational training (5.9%), this result signals that more has to be done to equip women with the skills to succeed in the jobs of the future.
Switzerland (10th) enters the top 10 this year. The economy has closed 79.8% of its overall gender gap so far, marking an improvement of 1.9 percentage points since last year’s edition, which explains a rise of eight positions in a single year. Most of this progress is due to the closing of the Political Empowerment gap by 8.7 percentage points. The economy’s score jumps from 40.7% to 49.4%, ranking Switzerland 12th globally on this subindex. The most important driver of this improvement is the significant increase in the share of women parliamentarians (from 32.5% to 42%), which translates to 72.4% gender gap closed for this indicator. The share of women in ministerial positions remains constant at 42.9%, translating into a gender gap score of 75.1%. Further, since the ascension of another woman as President of the Swiss Confederation in 2020, a woman has been in a head-of-state role for eight of the last 50 years. These improvements on political gender gaps contrast with a stagnation on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, where Switzerland has closed 74.3% of the gap to date but loses five places in the ranking on this subindex. Although 80.1% of women participate in the job market (90.8% gap closed) and 47% work in skilled professions (88.9% gap closed), there are still too few women in senior positions (33.5%). This corresponds to a 50% gender gap on this indicator, the largest yet to close, followed by wage equality (72% gap closed) and income (70.6% gap closed). Further, women are twice as likely to work part time than men (61.8% versus 30.4%), and only 14 weeks of maternity leave are offered, while only recently have men been entitled to two weeks paternity leave with 80% of their salaries paid.8 Removing these and other barriers would be an important step to fast-forward closing Economic Participation and Opportunity gender gaps.
Top 15 most populous economies
Bangladesh has closed 71.9% of its overall gender gap (down from the previous edition’s 72.6%) and ranks 65th globally. Although the performance of Bangladesh exceeds the South Asia regional average, there are still wide gender gaps on many dimensions. Bangladesh’s declining performance in this edition can be attributed almost exclusively to a step backwards in closing Economic Participation and Opportunity gender gaps. To date, Bangladesh has closed 41.8% of this gap, which is 2 percentage points lower than one year ago. In fact, gaps are wider on almost all aspects measured of this subindex.
The most significant decline is in the share of women among professional and technical workers. The gender gap on this indicator has widened by almost 10 percentage points, as the share of skilled women went from 29.6% of the total to 24.3%, leading to a score of only 32.2%. In addition, the already low share of women in managerial roles shrank further to 10.7% (corresponding to only 12% of this gap closed so far). Labour force participation gaps also remain large. Only 38.5% of women participate in the labour force, compared to 84.2% men, corresponding to a score on the index of only 45.7%. A high level of informality (96.6% of employed women and 93.9% of men work in the informal sector) characterize Bangladesh’s economy, contributing to low levels of both employment and income stability. Due to all these factors, women earn just 40.3% of the estimated earned income of men—consequently just 40.3% of the income gender gap and 58.4% of the wage equality gender gap have been closed. The progress towards gender parity is more advanced in terms of Political Empowerment.
Bangladesh ranks 7th globally on this dimension, as 54.6% of this gender gap has been closed so far. Notably, Bangladesh is the economy where a woman has been in a head-of-state role the longest (27 years) over the past 50 years (ranking 1st). Yet more must be done to involve women at all levels of political life. Currently, only 20.9% of parliamentarians and 7.7% of ministers are women. Additionally, there are gaps in enrolment in tertiary education (17% women versus 24% men) and some women still do not have equal rights to justice, inheritance, access to land and non-land assets, and divorce. Women are also often subject to violence: 45.2% of women ages 15–19 have been married as children and 53.3% of women have experienced violence in their lifetime. Although gender gaps in Health and Survival (96.2%) as measured by sex ratio at birth and life expectancy are relatively small, a more specific look at health indicates that a broader shift is required to achieve better security and health conditions for women.
Brazil has closed 69.5% of its overall gender gap, achieving a rank of 93rd globally. Only 13.8% of the Political Empowerment gender gap has been closed to date, ranking Brazil 108th on this edition’s index, with a 4-rank drop since last year. There are very few women parliamentarians (15.2%, 17.9% gap closed so far) and ministers (10.5%, 11.7% gap closed so far), and a woman has been in a head-of-state role for only five years of the last 50 (12% gap closed so far). Gender gaps also persist in terms of Economic Participation and Opportunity, where only 66.5% of the gap has been closed (ranking 89th), a slight improvement over the previous edition. These gaps manifest primarily in terms of wage and income. To date, 54.2% of the wage equality gap and 56.7% of the income gap have been closed. To a lesser extent, gender gaps also continue in labour force participation, where 61.9% of adult women and 80.1% of men are in the labour force (77.2% gap closed), as well as in terms of women’s presence in senior roles, where women are 39.4% of all managers (65.1% gap closed).
While Brazil has a long way to go to bridge gender gaps in politics and the economy, it has already closed gaps on the Health and Survival and Educational Attainment subindexes. In terms of health, 98% of the gap has been closed, and parity has been achieved at all levels of education. When it comes to education, despite no gaps in enrolment rates in either primary, secondary or tertiary education, only 10.7% of Brazilian women in university are enrolled in STEM programmes versus 28.6% of men. This calls for policies to incentivizing women’s enrolment in technical studies which can contribute to opening new and better economic opportunities for them.
Ranking 107th overall, China has closed 68.2% of its gender gap to date, improving by 0.6 percentage points over last year’s edition. This progress can be attributed to two factors. First, China has reduced its Educational Attainment gap by 1.3 percentage points, so that 98.7% of the gap has been closed. This progress can be attributed to improving its Economic Participation and Opportunity pillar, where the gap has been closed by 5 percentage points this year, passing the 70% milestone (70.1%, 69th globally). Notably, wage and income gaps between women and men have been reduced: 80.6% of the wage gap and 61.2% of the income gaps are now closed. However, large gaps remain in terms of labour force particpation (82.9% closed so far) as well as in terms of senior roles, where only 11.4% of board members are women and 16.7% of senior managers are women, corresponding to a gender gap of 80%. The limited presence of women in leadership positions is also reflected in large Political Empowerment gaps. Only 11.8% of this gap has closed so far, ranking China 118th globally. Only 24.9% of parliamentarians and 3.2% of ministers are women, and a woman has been in a head-of-state position for less than one year in the past 50. China also continues to have a relatively large Health and Survival gap: 93.5% of this gap has closed to date, the lowest level among all 156 economies assessed by the index. This is mainly due to the lowest progress of any economy in closing gender gaps in sex ratio at birth: 88.8 girls were born every 100 boys in 2018, reflecting strong son preference and gender-biased prenatal sex selective practices.
Egypt has closed 63.9% of its overall gender gap, ranking the economy 129th globally. Although this overall gap has slightly decreased this year, by 1 percentage point, the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex score has regressed even further, by 1.8 percentage points. To date, 42.1% of this gap has been closed. Only 20% of women are in the labour force, corresponding to a gap of 73.4% still to close and ranking Egypt 150th globally on this indicator. Women are underrepresented among professional and technical workers (33.4%) and senior officials and managers (7.3%), corresponding to gaps yet to close of 50% and 99%, respectively. These inequalities are also reflected in wage and income gaps: the estimated earned income of a woman is currently 22% of that of a man, 4.2 percentage points larger than one year ago, while over 20% of the wage gap has yet to be closed. In addition, women continue to experience limited rights in inheriting property, and accessing and using land and non-land assets. On the other hand, Egypt has made some progress on its Political Empowerment gap, with an increase of 6.3 percentage points from the previous edition. Egypt has closed 19.6% of its Political Empowerment gap to date and counts 27% of women among parliamentarians and 24.2% among ministers. More progress has been achieved in terms of Health and Survival (96.8%) as well as Educational Attainment, where 97% of the gender gap has been closed.
Ethiopia has closed 69% of its gender gap and ranks 97th globally. Although the overall gender gap has widened slightly since last year’s edition, Ethiopia has made significant progress on the Health and Survival subindex (97.1% gap closed). However, only 27.7% of births are attended by skilled personnel and only 43% women receive at least four visits for antenatal care, leading to a relatively high maternal mortality rate (401 deaths per 100,000 live births). On women’s Political Empowerment: 38.2% of the gap has been closed to date, a 4.5 percentage point drop from the previous year. In 2018, for the first time, a woman was elected as the president of economy. As such, 2.2 years of the last 50 have seen a woman as head of state; however, this progress has been offset by a reduction of women in ministerial positions from 47.6% to 40%. The economy also has yet to close large gaps in the workplace and in education. In terms of Economic Participation and Opportunity, 56% of the gender gap has been closed, which ranks Ethiopia 128th globally. Women’s economic participation is still too limited: 87.7% of the labour participation gender gap has been closed, but only one-third of professional and technical roles (29.9%) and one-fourth of senior roles (26.5%) are held by women, corresponding to a 63.9% gender gap among legislators, senior officials and managers.
In these conditions wage and income gaps remain relatively large: 50.9% of the wage gap and 42% of the income gap are yet to close. In terms of Educational Attainment, 85% of the gap has been closed, which means that Ethiopia ranks among the bottom 35 economies on the index for offering equal access to education to both boys and girls. In addition, just 44.4% of women are literate (versus 59% of men), and today almost 20% of girls are not enrolled in primary education. Although boys also are often excluded from primary education (12.3%), there is still a 7.2% gap to be bridged on such a basic educational requirement. In addition, gender gaps remain large in tertiary education, where only 5.3% of girls are enrolled, half the share of boys. Finally, women still suffer other forms of discrimination, in accessing financial services or inheritance, as well as security concerns: 28% of women have been subject to violence at least once in their lifetime.
India has closed 62.5% of its gender gap to date, ranking the economy 140th globally. This gap is 4.2 percentage points larger than recorded in the previous edition, which explains why India has fallen 28 places in the ranking. Most of the decline has occurred on the Political Empowerment subindex, where India has regressed 13.5 percentage points to reach a level of gap closed to date of just 27.6%. The main change that took place this year is the significant decline in the share of women among ministers, which halved, from 23.1% in 2019 to 9.1% in 2021. In addition, the share of women in parliament remains stagnant at 14.4% and the share of the last 50 years in which a woman has been head of state is 15.5. Decline also took place on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, albeit to a lesser extent. India’s gender gap on this dimension widens by 3% this year, leading to a 32.6% gap closed to date. Among the drivers of this decline are a decrease in women’s labour force participation rate, which fell from 24.8% to 22.3%. In addition, the share of women in professional and technical roles declined further to 29.2%. The share of women in senior and managerial positions also remains low: only 14.6% of these positions are held by women and there are only 8.9% of firms with female top managers. Further, women’s estimated earned income is only one-fifth of men’s, which puts India among the bottom 10 globally on this indicator. Discrimination against women is also reflected in Health and Survival subindex statistics. With 93.7% of this gap closed to date, India ranks among the bottom five economies in this subindex. Wide sex ratio at birth gaps are due to high incidence of gender-based sex-selective practices. In addition, more than one in four women has faced intimate violence in her lifetime. Conversely, 96.2% of the Educational Attainment subindex gender gap has been closed, with parity achieved in primary, secondary and tertiary education. Yet, gender gaps persist in terms of literacy: one third of women are illiterate (34.2%) compared to 17.6% of men.
Indonesia has closed 68.8% of its overall gender gap, corresponding to a rank of 99th globally, although the gap this year is 1.2 percentage points larger than in the previous edition. This decline has resulted mainly from wider Economic Participation and Opportunity gaps where the economy has lost 4 percentage points since last year, regressing to a gap currently closed of 64.7%. This can be explained almost exclusively by a sharp drop in the share of women in senior roles, which halved from 59.4% to 29.8% in just one year. Beyond the performance of this indicator, women participate in the labour market significantly less than men (55.9% of women and 84% of men) and wage and income gaps remain large (69.7% and 51.7%, respectively). In addition, 81.8% of the women’s employment is in the informal sector (compared to 79.4% of men). Political Empowerment gaps have also widened this year, reaching a level of 16.4%, 0.8% wider than a year ago. The main reason for this change is the decline in the share of women in ministerial positions, which fell from 23.5% in January 2019 to 17.1% in January 2021. This reduction offsets the progress observed in the presence of women among parliamentarians, which rose from 17.4% in 2019 to 21% in 2021. Further, women heads of state have been in power for only 3.2 of the past 50 years, no change from last year. More progress has been achieved in terms of Health and Survival as well as Educational Attainment, where 97% of the gaps are closed. However, despite parity being achieved in secondary and tertiary enrolment, the female enrolment rate in primary education is the third lowest among G20 economies (95% gap closed, 132nd) and must be addressed to offer better opportunities to future generations of women.
Japan has closed 65.6% of its gender gap and ranks 120th, among the lowest-ranked economies in the East Asia and Pacific region. However, Japan has slightly closed its overall gap this year, moving up two positions since last year’s edition of the index. Japan’s improvements are mainly due to the Political Empowerment subindex, where the gap has narrowed by 1.3 percentage points. Despite this progress, the level of women’s participation in politics remain low. Only 6.1% of the Political Empowerment gap has been closed to date, with just 9.9% of women among parliamentarians and 10% among ministers. Further there has never been a woman head of state in the past 50 years. Japan also progresses slightly in the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex (0.5 percentage points), but continues to perform poorly with just 60.4% of this gap closed to date, corresponding to a rank of 117th globally. This is mainly caused by a low share of women in senior roles (14.7%), and although 72% of women are in the labour force (84% gap closed), the share of women working part-time roles is almost twice that of men (50.8% versus 22.2%). Further, the average Japanese woman’s income is 43.7% lower than the average Japanese man’s income. On a more positive note, Japan has fully closed its gender gap in primary education, 95.3% of its secondary enrolment education gender gap and 95.2% of its tertiary enrolment education gender gap.
Mexico has closed 75.7% of its overall gender gap—which places the economy among the top 40 economies that have closed at least 74% of their gender gaps—and ranks 34th globally on the index. Overall, the performance of Mexico is almost identical to that reported in the previous edition.
Health and Survival and Educational Attainment gaps have nearly closed (97.5% and 99.7%, respectively) and are almost as narrow as they were in the previous edition. This has contributed to Mexico being among the top 34 economies on the overall index. Similarly, Mexico’s Political Empowerment score is unchanged, yet it falls 4 places to 18th position in the subindex ranking. The shares of women in parliament and in ministerial positions remain at 48.2% and 42.1%, respectively (as of 2019), and Mexico has never had a female head of state. The lack of further progress on these factors, while several economies have increased the presence of women in politics, explains the drop in the subindex ranking. A pressing priority for Mexico is to boost women’s Economic Participation and Opportunity, where, despite some progress (+1.6 percentage points), only 59% of the gender gap has been closed to date, ranking the economy 122nd globally. Among the reasons that may explain slow progress in this area is the persistently low participation of women in the labour force. Only 49% of adult women are in the job market, and over one-third (36.7%) of employed women are in part-time roles. Gender gaps are even wider at higher levels of seniority: 35.9% of managers are women, corresponding to a gender gap yet to close of 43.8% and only 14.6% of firms have a woman as a top manager. These dynamics lead to wide income and wage gender gaps, both standing at 50%.
Nigeria has closed 62.7% of its overall gender gap, which is 0.7 percentage points wider than last year, placing the economy 139th globally. A main driver of this change is Nigeria’s gender gap on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, which widened by 5 percentage points since last year’s edition, leading to a gap closure of 68.7% (78th). Labour force participation and financial gaps have also widened this year in Nigeria. The labour force participation gap enlarged by 7 percentage points to a 77.3% closure, as only 49.3% of women are participating in the job market. In parallel, wage and income gaps widened by 1 and 15 percentage points, respectively. To date, the income of an average Nigerian woman is 58.4% of a man’s income. Further, women are rare in senior positions: only 30% of managers and 13.9% of firms have female top managers. Gender gaps in leadership roles are wider in terms of Political Empowerment, despite an improvement this year. Only 4.7% of the Political Empowerment gender gap has closed so far, one of the eight largest gaps in the world. There are few women among parliamentarians (5.8%) and ministers (10.3%), and there has been no female head of state over the past 50 years. Further, only 80.6% of the Educational Attainment subindex gap has been closed, corresponding to a global rank of 146th out of 156 economies.
Just 58.1% of the women in Nigeria are enrolled in primary education, corresponding to 81.1% of gap closed, while in secondary school 87.2% of the gender gap has been closed. It means that 16.9% and 12.8%, respectively, of these gaps have yet to be closed. Gender gaps are even wider in tertiary enrolment: only 69.2% of this gap has been closed, with very low participation rates among women (8.3%). Improving participation in education is a necessary step toward offering better prospects to women going forward.
Pakistan ranks 153rd out of 156 economies assessed on the index this year, with its gender gap having widened in this edition by 0.7 percentage points, to 55.6%. Pakistan features among the bottom 10 economies in two of the four subindexes: Economic Participation and Opportunity (152nd) and Health and Survival (153rd). Pakistan has closed just 31.6% of its Economic Participation and Opportunity gap. Few women participate in the labour force (22.6%) and even fewer are in managerial positions (4.9%). This means that only 26.7% and 5.2%, respectively, of these gaps have been closed so far, translating into very large income disparities between women and men: on average, a Pakistani woman’s income is 16.3% of a man’s. Further, women do not have equal access to justice, ownership of land and non-financial assets or inheritance rights. On a more positive note, there are signs of improvement in the share of women who are in professional and technical roles (25.3%, up from 23.4% in the previous edition of the index). Just 81.1% of Pakistan’s Educational Attainment gap has been closed, with gender gaps as large as 13% or more across all levels of education. These gaps are the widest at lower education levels (84.7% primary enrolment gap closed) and are somewhat narrower for higher education levels (85.2% gap closed in secondary enrolment and 87.1% closed in tertiary enrolment). Further, only 46.5% of women are literate, 61.6% attend primary school, 34.2% attend high school and 8.3% are enrolled in tertiary education courses. Pakistan has closed 94.4% of its Health and Survival gender gap, negatively impacted by wide sex ratio at birth (92%) due to gender-based sex-selective practices, and 85% of women have suffered intimate partner violence. Pakistan’s rank is relatively higher for Political Empowerment (98th), yet only 15.4% of this gap has been closed to date. With just 4.7 years (in the last 50) with a woman as head of state, Pakistan is one of the top 33 economies in the world on this indicator. However, women’s representation among parliamentarians (20.2%) and ministers (10.7%) remains low.
Philippines has dropped one position to occupy the 17th place this year, with 78.4% of its overall gender gap closed to date. This performance is the second best in the East Asia and Pacific region, after New Zealand. Not only has Philippines virtually closed both its Educational Attainment and Health and Survival gaps, but it is also among the 18 economies in the world that have closed at least 79.5% of their Economic Participation and Opportunity gaps. This result is due in part to the fact that the Philippines is one of the few economies that has closed at the same time its gender gap in senior roles, and in professional and technical roles. However, women should be incentivized to participate more in the broader labour force. Only 49.1% of women are in the job market, corresponding to a gap closure of just 65.3% on this indicator. Similarly, income and wage gaps persist. On average, 22% of the wage gap and 31% of the income gap have yet to close. When it comes to Political Empowerment, only 36.2% of this gap has been closed so far. Despite having a woman as head of state for over 15 of the past 50 years, there are still too few seats in the parliament held by women (28%) and even fewer women among ministers (13%).
The Russian Federation ranks 81st globally, with 70.8% of its overall gender gap closed so far, almost the same level reported in the past edition. Similar to many economies in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the Russian Federation has nearly closed both its Educational Attainment gap (100%) and its Health and Survival gap (98%). Russia also ranks among the top 25 economies that have closed at least 76.7% of their Economic Participation and Opportunity gap. This performance represents an improvement of 2 percentage points in one year, mainly due to a step forward in allowing women in senior positions. The share of women in these roles increased from 41% to 44.6%, leading to a gap closure of 80% on this indicator to date. Women are generally well integrated into the labour market: 68.9% are in the labour force (86.9% gap closed) and hold more skilled roles than men. However, income gaps are persistently large as the income of a Russian woman is still less than 60% of a man’s income. There are relatively few firms with women as top managers (24.3%) and, despite this year’s progress, it is not very common for women to be in top managerial roles or on boards of listed companies (10.6%). When it comes to Political Empowerment, only 8.5% of this gap has been closed, with a reduction of one percentage point since the last edition. Only 15.8% of parliamentarians and 9.7% of ministers are women.
The United States places 30th in this edition, 23 places higher than one year ago, thanks to a progress of 3.9 percentage points relative to the previous edition. So far, the economy has closed 76.3% of its gender gap. This step forward is mostly explained by narrowing gaps on the Political Empowerment front, which has doubled to a score of 32.9% (67.1% is yet to be closed). As of January 2021, women in ministerial positions jumped from 21.7% to 46.2%, and the share of women in the congress increased from 23.6% to 27.3%. In contrast with the rapid improvement on Political Empowerment, there has been no progress in closing Economic Participation and Opportunity gender gaps: while 75.4% of the gap on this subindex has been closed, this is 0.2 points lower than in the previous edition. Only a marginal improvement has been achieved in terms of labour force participation and share of women in senior roles. Consequently, these gaps have shrunk to 86.7% and 73.1%, respectively, a few decimal points above of those attained a year ago. Despite these small improvements, just 67.8% of women are in the job market (61st globally) and 42.2% of managers are women. In parallel, wage and income gaps also remain large (66.8% and 65.4%, respectively) and indicate that an American woman’s income is about 65.4% of a man’s income.
Progress towards gender parity is more advanced in terms of Health and Survival, where 97% of the gap has been closed, despite declining life expectancy for both men and women of about 2 years. Healthy life expectancy of women in the United States stands today at 67 years, compared to 70.1 years in 2016. Gender parity has also been achieved on the Educational Attainment subindex (100%), with a balance in boys’ and girls’ primary education enrolment rates, and greater share of girls enrolled in tertiary education than men. However, women still choose STEM disciplines far less frequently than men. Only 10.4% of women specialize in these fields versus over 30% of men, with a particularly low share of women in Engineering, Manufacturing and Construction (2.42%) as well as Information & Communication Technologies (1.53%).
Viet Nam maintains the same rank as in last year’s index (87th) with 70.1% of its overall gender gap closed to date. A priority for Viet Nam is to accelerate gender parity in politics, as only 11.3% of the Political Empowerment subindex gap has been closed, further regressing since the past edition (-1 percentage points). Although 26.7% of parliamentarians are women, to date there are still no women ministers, and there has never been a woman head of state. A second area for improvement is Health and Survival. Here, the economy ranks 152nd, due in part to the fact that Viet Nam has a skewed sex ratio at birth (89.4%, 154th). More progress has been accomplished on the Educational Attainment subindex, where 98.2% of the gap has been closed and gender parity has been achieved in tertiary enrolment rates. In terms of Economic Participation and Opportunity, Viet Nam’s performance is mixed. Overall, Viet Nam is one of 26 economies that has closed at least 76.5% of this gap, with relatively small income gaps by international comparison. A woman’s income is about 81.9% of a man’s income, which positions Viet Nam among the top 11 economies on this indicator. Also, women actively participate in the labour force (79.6%, 92% gap closed), and represent a high share of skilled professionals (52.6%). However, there are still very few women in senior or managerial roles (26%) or in firms’ top management positions (22.4%).
The index continues to systematically track progress and highlight those economies that have advanced more rapidly than other towards gender parity. This year the report finds that progress has stagnated, with widening gender gaps on the Political Empowerment subindex globally, which has led to an increase in the estimated time to close the global overall gender gap to 135.6 years. In addition, existing disparities may have widened amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report’s detailed Economy Profiles and online Data Explorer tool—available on the report website (https://wef-gender-gap.netlify.com/)—allow users to understand how close each economy has come to gender equality across each of the four subindexes, and also provide a snapshot of each economy’s legal and social framework to date.
The Global Gender Gap Report continues to encourage public-private dialogues and cross-economy comparisons as tools to guide stakeholders in closing gender gaps. By providing a continuous assessment of the drivers of gender disparities, the report supports the case for closing gender gaps and to encourage further research on policies and practices that are effective at promoting change.