Friday, December 20, 2019

The Global Gender Gap Report 2019

I have written about these annual global gender gap reports* before.  Here's the 2009 report, here's the 2015 report, and here are the 2016 and 2018 reports.  To explain what these reports are based on, I quote my 2018 post:**

The World Economic Forum has published an annual global gender gap report since 2006.  Four sub-indexes are aggregated to get an overall measure about average differences between men and women in four areas:  economic participation and opportunity, health and survival, educational attainment and political participation.

The index has its problems.  For example, the health sub-index does not measure reproductive choice.  But it also has certain advantages.  It compares countries with others of roughly the same income level, and because it has been published for over a decade, it lets us analyze progress (or lack of progress) over time.

The United States in the most recent report*** ranks 53rd among the included countries, two ranks below last year's placement.  According to the report, progress in the United States has stalled, and it has dropped two ranks in the overall results mostly due to a "small retraction in its Economic Participation and Opportunity performance, where the progress towards equal wages takes a step back and at the same time income (wages and non-wages) gaps remain large."

The ten highest ranking countries in gender equality are, from the first to the tenth:  Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Nicaragua, New Zealand, Ireland, Spain, Rwanda and Germany.  The Nordic countries always lead this particular pack (a partial explanation for why I turned out as irritating as I did...) and Rwanda has been in the top ten since 2015 at least****. 

The ten countries at the bottom of the ranking are, from the tenth from the bottom to the country ranked the worst in gender equality:  Oman, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Chad, Iran, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Pakistan, Iraq and Yemen. Though Iraq, Syria and Yemen are all war-torn countries, Yemen has been the lowest ranked country many years before the current hostilities.  As I wrote in my last year's post, the Muslim countries urgently need strong feminist movements.

As has been the case in the past, the report calculates how many years it would take to achieve gender parity (based on the definitions and data the report uses), assuming that progress (or its opposite) continues at the same pace in the future:

Projecting current trends into the future, the overall global gender gap will close in 99.5 years, on average, across the 107 countries covered continuously since the first edition of the report. 

Lack of progress in closing the Economic Participation and Opportunity gap leads to an extension of the time it will be needed to close this gap. At the slow speed experienced over the period 2006–2020, it will take 257 years to close this gap. 

The second area where gender gaps will take longest to close is Political Empowerment. This year’s evolution speeds up the pace of progress towards parity, yet it will still take 94.5 years—even at this faster rate—to close the gender gap.

Third, the Educational Attainment gender gap is on track to be closed over the next 12 years, mainly thanks to advancements in some developing countries. The Health and Survival gender gap remains virtually unchanged since last year. Globally, the time to fully close this gap remains undefined, while gender parity has been already fully achieved in 40 countries among the 153 covered by this edition of the report.
That 99.5 year figure looks quite depressing, though not as depressing as the 257 years estimated for the reaching of economic equality between men and women.  But it's probably even more depressing to contemplate the possibility that the recent slow-down in the reduction of the economic opportunity gap might be the first sign of a future reversal in that progress.

So let's not contemplate that.  Rather, let's take the justifiably optimistic view that so much progress in just a few hundred years is something to celebrate (with wine and chocolate), given that the system we are trying to dismantle here is thousands of years old. 
* For some reason this year's report is called the report for 2020, but it's actually for 2019.  Note that "gender" in these reports is essentially the same as biological sex, so the reports measure the impact of being biologically female and viewed as one or at least the latter.

**  As I mention in the 2018 post, the health index used in creating the aggregate index does not include reproductive health measures.  Keep that in mind when you wonder why some unlikely countries seem to rank fairly high.

***  All the quotes in this post are from the downloaded report which you can access at this link.

****  You can read more about the ten top countries in the report itself, starting on page 27.  US is discussed in the section following that one.