Global crises, weak economic recovery delay time for gender parity to 132 years: WEF

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It will now take 132 years for women to reach gender parity worldwide due to compounding crises brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic – including the global cost-of-living crisis – and weak economic recovery which have stalled the progress of women globally, a new report by the World Economic Forum found.

While this figure is a slight improvement from 2021, the number was 100 years before the pandemic, according to the WEF Global Gender Gap Report.

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Just one in five of the 146 economies which were surveyed for the report were able to close the gender gap by 1 percent in the past year. This progress does little to counter the setback of an entire generation recorded in 2020 and 2021 at the start of the global health crisis.

“The cost-of-living crisis is impacting women disproportionately after the shock of labor market losses during the pandemic and the continued inadequacy of care infrastructure,” WEF’s Managing Director Saadia Zahidi said in a statement released on Wednesday.

“In face of a weak recovery, government and business must make two sets of efforts: targeted policies to support women’s return to the workforce and women’s talent development in the industries of the future. Otherwise, we risk eroding the gains of the last decades permanently and losing out on the future economic returns of diversity,” she added.

The report, now in its 16th edition, analyzes the evolution of gender-based gaps in four areas: educational attainment; political empowerment; health and survival; and economic participation and opportunity. It also looks at the impact of recent shocks to the global market on gender inequality crisis in the labor market.

The health and survival gap has closed by 95.8 percent this year, educational attainment by 94.4 percent, economic participation by 60.3 percent, and political empowerment by 22 percent.

Considering a longer view of the gender parity gap over the past 16 years, at this rate, it will take 155 years to close the political empowerment gap – 11 more years than forecasted in 2021 – and 151 years for the economic participation and opportunity gender gap, the report found.

Although around 29 countries reached full gender parity, it will still take another 22 years to close the educational attainment gap, and while 140 of the countries surveyed have closed 95.8 percent of their health gaps, the overall decline in health and survival means this may change.

Top 10 most equal countries

The world’s most equal countries, according to the report are Iceland, Finland, Norway, New Zealand, Sweden, Rwanda, Nicaragua, Namibia, Ireland, and Germany (respectively).

The top five remain unchanged from the findings of last year’s report, however Lithuania and Switzerland’s rankings declined this year, dropping them out of the top 10 as Nicaragua and Germany took their places.

Iceland has almost entirely closed the gender gap in educational attainment, and it tops the entire index in the political empowerment dimension, mainly due to the fact that it had a relatively higher share of women as heads of state and parliament over the past 50 years.

In second place was Finland, achieving full parity in educational attainment and near parity in health and survival. However, its economic participation score was lower this year due to a drop in parity for labor force participation, a decline in both men and women’s incomes, and a decline in gender parity in wage equality.

Norway’s score in the subindex of educational attainment was the highest, at near full parity but its economic participation and opportunity gap scored 3 percent lower than last year’s score, slipping to levels it registered in 2007.

New Zealand, in fourth place, achieved parity across the board in the education category, and improved its ranking in healthy life expectancy.

Sweden closed the gender gap on educational attainment and its second-highest score was in the health and survival subindex.

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