Singapore rises in gender equality ranking while India and the UK slip: World Economic Forum report

The recently released Global Gender Gap Report 2020 by the World Economic Forum has thrown up some alarming figures. According to the report, it will take a “massive 257 years” to eliminate gender disparity in the workplace, and 99 years to close the gender gap in political representation. 

Released on Tuesday, December 17, the Global Gender Gap Report 2020 presented a decidedly mixed picture on the progress of 153 countries towards gender parity. The survey, now in its 14th edition, benchmarks the countries based on four dimensions: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival and Political Empowerment. 

Photo courtesy: unsplash
Photo courtesy: unsplash

Singapore made strides on the list as it surged 13 spots to 54th, with improvements in economic participation and opportunity, as well as educational attainment.  According to the report, the country also has a large number of women in industries that have traditionally been very segregated, such as engineering and cloud computing.

The island nation in ranked 20th in economic participation and opportunity subindex due to a gender parity in marketing. Singapore’s educational attainment improved as well, with no gender gap in enrollment in secondary and tertiary education.

The UK meanwhile fell six places, down to 21 in the ranking. According to the WEF, one of the reasons for the UK’s poor performance was a lack of female representation in politics (although 220 women were elected to Parliament in last week’s election – a record for the UK) and because men on average were paid more than women.

Global top ten in gender parity. Table: WEF
Global top ten in gender parity. Table: WEF

The Global Gender Gap report 2020 said the gender wage gap in the UK was 16%, compared with 7 per cent in Sweden and Norway. It also said that in the UK, more than three times the number of women are in part-time roles compared to men.

India also fell in the ranking, down four places to 112.

“The country (India) has closed two-thirds of its overall gender gap (score of 66.8 per cent). However, the condition of women in large fringes of India’s society is precarious. It has lost four positions since the previous edition, despite a small score improvement, as some countries ranked lower than India have improved more," the report said.

“The economic gender gap runs particularly deep in India. Only one-third of the gap has been bridged (score of 35.4 per cent, 149th, down 7 places). Since 2006, the gap has gotten significantly wider. Among the 153 countries studied, India is the only country where the economic gender gap is larger than the political gender gap," it added.

India ranked 18th in political empowerment and 4th in the number of years a female or a male ruled a state. It ranks 149th in economic participation and opportunity and 117th in wage equality for similar work. The country ranked 112th in educational attainment and 150th in health and survival.

Iceland is ranked as the nation closest to achieving gender parity for the 11th consecutive year, having closed 88 per cent of its gender gap, followed by Norway  (84.2 per cent), Finland (83.2 per cent) and Sweden (82 per cent). Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, and Yemen ranked lowest. The most-improved countries were Albania, Ethiopia, Mali, Mexico and Spain.

The United States ranks 53, down two places. The North America region (United States and Canada) have closed 73 per cent of their gender gap, as compared to Europe at 77 per cent. As per the report, this indicates that it will take almost three times longer to close the gap in North America (151 years) than in Europe (54 years). 

Table: WEF
Gender gap closed by region. Table: WEF

North America has closed its educational and health gender gaps with the smallest gap when it comes to economic participation and opportunities. The area of political empowerment remains the most lacking in North America, where only 18 per cent of the political gender gap has been closed. According to the WEF, in Canada and the United States, female representation in congress hovers around 25 per cent, approximately 10 per cent below Western Europe’s average. The United States has only closed 69.9 per cent of its wage gap and 65.6% of its income gap so far.

The UAE ranks 120, up one place, making it the second best performer in the Middle East and North Africa region.

Overall, the quest towards gender parity has improved, due to the greater political representation for women. 

Meanwhile, women’s participation in the wider labour market has stalled and financial disparities are increasing. In fact, the area of economic participation and opportunity is the only dimension in which progress has regressed.

Table: WEF
Percentage of women in companies' board of directors. Table: WEF

The figures are sobering, according to the report by the World Economic Forum. A deteriorating situation forced gender parity to a lowly 57.8 per cent in the workplace. This in terms of time represents a massive 257 years before gender parity can be achieved. 

Singapore ranks 29th in terms of gender parity in the workplace. Meanwhile, the US takes 26th place, the UK 58th, UAE at 137 and India at 149.

The situation was attributed to three primary reasons: women having greater representation in roles that are being automated; not enough women entering professions where wage growth is the most pronounced (most obviously, but not exclusively, technology), and women facing the perennial problem of insufficient care infrastructure and access to capital.

On the other hand, in education, it is forecast to take just 12 years to attain gender parity. 

“Gender parity has a fundamental bearing on whether or not economies and societies thrive. Developing and deploying one-half of the world’s available talent has a huge bearing on the growth, competitiveness and future-readiness of economies and businesses worldwide,” the report said.