According to a new report, women around the world will have to wait more than two centuries for the gender pay gap to close.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) has released its annual report on gender equality around the world, and it’s not good news for women. The global gender gap – which covers politics, education, health and economics – has widened for the first time in 10 years, largely as a result of internationally “declining gender equality in the workplace and political representation”.
The UK came 15th out of 144 countries in the global rankings for gender equality, a climb of five places since last year (when we came 20th).
This jump was partly due to the increase in female representation in politics seen after this year’s general election. Women currently hold 32% of parliamentary seats in the UK, the highest proportion of female politicians in British history.
However, while the UK’s 2017 ranking it its highest in six years, it still represents an overall drop in gender equality. When the WEF launched the Global Gender Gap report in 2006, the UK was rated 9th – meaning we’ve slid six places in the rankings in 11 years.
Increasing the level of gender equality in the UK wouldn’t just be good for, you know, women. According to the report, achieving gender parity would also have significant economic benefits, adding an estimated £188bn to the nation’s GDP.
Iceland came in at the number one spot in the global rankings, an enviable position it has held since 2009.
Norway and Finland took second and third place respectively – perhaps not a surprise, given the Nordic nations’ reputation for women-friendly policies including voluntary gender quotas in politics and mandatory parental leave for both genders.
Possibly more unexpected was Rwanda’s appearance in fourth place. The central African country came first globally in the ‘health and survival’ category, which looks at sex ratios at birth (i.e. how many girls are born compared to boys, a factor that can be skewed disproportionately in countries that place more value on male children) and women’s healthy life expectancy compared to men’s.
Rwanda also ranked third for political empowerment, thanks in no small part to its admirable proportion of female politicians. Some 61% of parliamentarians in Rwanda are women, the highest percentage of any country in the world – a figure that makes the UK’s proportion of female MPs look rather less impressive.
Globally, the gap between men and women has widened. The report notes that women’s political empowerment and participation in the workforce remain particular problems. Across the 144 countries assessed by the WEF, only 23% of the political gap and less than 60% of the economic participation gap have been closed.
If things continue as they are, women around the world will have to wait 217 years for the gender pay gap to close, the WEF said. It will take an estimated 100 years to close the overall gender gap.
“In 2017 we should not be seeing progress towards gender parity shift into reverse,” said Saadia Zahidi, the WEF’s head of education, gender and work. “Gender equality is both a moral and economic imperative.”
She added: “Some countries understand this and they are now seeing dividends from the proactive measures they have taken to address their gender gaps.”
Images: Rex Features