IPRI REVIEW

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IPRI REVIEW
Global Gender Gap Report 2023: Regional Takeaways

  Rishika Yadav, Sneha Surendran, Sandra D Costa, Ryan Marcus, Prerana P and Nithyashree RB

On 20 June, the World Economic Forum released the "Global Gender Gap Report 2023." The World Economic Forum has been publishing the global gender gap report since 2006. The objective of the report is to track progress towards gender parity and compare countries' and regions' gender gap every year.

The report has ranked 146 countries across the world on the basis of closing gender gaps and achieving parity. The ranking is based upon four categories namely: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. The report has divided the world into eight regions including East Asia and the Pacific, Southern Asia, Eurasia and Central Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle-East and North Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, and North America. 

The following are the regional takeaways of the report.

East Asia
1. Stagnated progress
The East Asia region, as a whole, scored 68.8 per cent in gender parity, ranking fifth among the eight regions. However, the progress has been stagnant for over a decade. Additionally, there has been a decline of 0.2 per cent compared to the previous year's report. China ranks 107 and has achieved 67.8 per cent gender parity. Compared to the previous year, this represents a 0.4 percentage-point decline and a drop of five positions in rank. Since 2017, political empowerment parity has regressed in China and Japan. Whereas, South Korea ranks 105; Seoul performed well in educational attainment. Japan's gender parity has declined for two consecutive years, with a score of 64.7 per cent, ranking 125. Japan experiences low parity in economic participation and opportunity, and political empowerment, highlighting the need for substantial efforts to address gender disparities. 

2. A skewed challenge in China
China is at 93.5 per cent parity on educational attainment, with full parity on tertiary education. On economic participation and opportunity, China has closed 72.7 per cent of the gender gap and attained 81.5 per cent parity in labour-force participation. It also secured 11.4 per cent parity on political empowerment, with 4.2 per cent women ministers and 24.9 per cent women parliamentarians. In terms of economic participation and opportunity, East Asia witnesses fluctuations, with highly populated economies like China experiencing a decline in scores. Overall, China shows strengths in educational attainment but lags behind in economic participation, health and survival, and political empowerment.

3. Japan's declining parity
Japan's decline of 0.25 percentage points has resulted in a nine-position drop in the rankings compared to the previous year. The country faces significant gender disparities, particularly in terms of political empowerment, where the parity stands at 5.7 per cent (ranking 138 globally). Only 10 per cent of parliamentary positions and 8.3 per cent of ministerial positions are held by women. Japan, however, showcases nearly full parity in both educational attainment and health and survival subindexes. There has been a 1.1 per cent improvement in parity in income earnings compared to the previous year, with 54.2 per cent of women in the labour force and 12.9 per cent serving as senior officers. Japan's economic participation and opportunity parity stands at 56.1 per cent (ranking 123 out of 146 countries), indicating limited opportunities for women in the workforce. These findings highlight the urgent need for substantial efforts to promote women's empowerment, close the gender pay gap, and enhance women's representation in decision-making positions in Japan.

South East Asia  
1. Iinequities across the region
The report highlights varying levels of progress in gender equality across Southeast Asian countries. The Philippines progressed in gender equality, ranking 16 globally, and have made significant advancements across all dimensions. The region as a whole shows fluctuations in economic participation scores, indicating the need for continuous efforts to promote women's inclusion in decision-making roles and improve opportunities for economic empowerment. Malaysia ranks 102 and Myanmar ranks 123, facing significant challenges in economic participation and opportunity, health and survival, and political empowerment. 

2. Educational attainment as a positive trend
Several countries in Southeast Asia, including Cambodia and Thailand, have shown progress in educational attainment. Cambodia stands out as the most recent country to achieve full parity in educational attainment. Thailand made progress in secondary education enrolment, while Cambodia saw increased rates of learning and enrolment in primary and tertiary education. Brunei ranks 96 and has scored relatively well in educational attainment. The Philippines excelled in education attainment, scoring 0.999 points, but performed poorly in political empowerment, earning only 0.409 points. Meanwhile, Indonesia had the lowest scores in the region. 

3. Persisting challenges in political representation
Despite some positive trends, challenges persist in various dimensions of gender equality in the region. These findings emphasize the need for targeted policies and interventions to address these issues and promote gender parity. Additionally, issues including skewed sex ratios at birth in Vietnam highlight the importance of addressing specific challenges. Timor-Leste ranks 95, indicating a considerable gender gap. Although the country has shown progress in educational attainment, it lags behind in economic participation and opportunity. Indonesia has sustained its score at 69.7 per cent but faces a drop in the share of women in senior official positions. Vietnam has shown gradual progress, reaching 71.1 per cent gender parity, particularly notable in the increase of women ministers. The Philippines has achieved 79.1 per cent gender parity, recovering in some indicators but experiencing a widening gap in women's representation in parliament. 

South Asia
1. A slow progress
In 2023, South Asia stands at the second lowest position securing 63.4 per cent gender parity. Last year, it secured the last spot with 62.4 per cent. This means that although there is a slight notable improvement, there is more room ahead to fill in. Bangladesh remains the most gender equal state in South Asia for the 9th time owing to its progress in political empowerment. Country holds the record for having the longest duration of a woman as the head of state. The considerable improvement is recorded in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. 

India was ranked 135 in 2022 but has reached 127 this year. Nevertheless, it ranks the lowest in the health subindex. India has received parity across all levels of education, but only has 36.7 per cent parity in economic participation and opportunity. Women have 15.1 per cent representation in the parliament which has been the highest of female participation since 2006. Political empowerment of women and equal opportunities are areas that face distraught. 

Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka are the best performing countries in the region. Pakistan and Afghanistan are at the end of both of the regional as well as the global table.

2. Mixed representation in educational attainment
In, educational attainment subindex, South Asia attained 96 per cent gender parity this year compared to 95.3 per cent in 2022. Both the years, India, Sri Lanka and Maldives hit the highest parity. In December 2022, Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickramasinghe expressed that women students account for 50 per cent of the higher studies enrolment. He stated: "We have a responsibility to increase women's representation not only in parliament and politics, but in all other areas as well." Afghanistan secured bottom ranking in the region after they enforced the law banning girls from continuing their education once they hit puberty. 

3. Decreasing political representation
Political empowerment subindex in South Asia is at 25.1 per cent this year compared to 26.3 per cent in 2022. There has been an increase in the number of parliamentary seats for women in Bhutan and Nepal. Chuki's and Turner's research titled, "Women and politics in democratic transitions: The case of Bhutan," held that there were less role models in the field of political representation as exemplary for women. Political empowerment in Pakistan has the widest gender gap at 15.2 per cent.

4. Advance in economic participation and opportunity
In the economic participation and opportunity sub index, South Asia has closed 37.2 per cent of the gender gap this year, compared to 35.7 per cent in 2022. Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Maldives secured the highest.  

Central Asia
Central Asia overall has ranked fourth out of eight regions. Since 2020, the parity score has stagnated. Among Central Asian countries, Kazakhstan ranks 62, Kyrgyzstan ranks 84 and Tajikistan ranks 111. 

The labour force gap in the region is 20 per cent. The political participation of women however is considerably significant owing to the role of women's opinions in political decisions. Central Asia is inclined towards protection of women from violence including a progressive legal protection. Despite legal restrictions, women are subjected to sexual and domestic abuse.

The Middle East and Africa
1. Africa’s Sub-Saharan gender problem
Sub-Saharan Africa ranked sixth out of eight geographic regions in achieving gender parity scoring 68.2 per cent. However, the progress in the region is uneven. 15 out of 36 countries have closed over 70 per cent of the gender gap. Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and Chad are the lowest-performing with the gender gap closed by less than 62 per cent. Nearly 102 more years is required to close the gender gap completely in the region. Out of 36 Sub-Saharan countries, ten were ranked globally in the top fifty, with Namibia securing eighth rank. Regionally, Namibia topped the list, and Chad ranked the lowest.  

Sub-Saharan Africa is also the lowest-ranking region in educational attainment with a score of 86 per cent. Despite that, three Sub-Saharan African countries of Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia have ranked first. Parity in educational attainment and literacy rate has increased by 0.5 per cent in 23 countries. The Middle East and North Africa region has attained 95.9 per cent parity in educational attainment and ranked sixth. Populous North African countries of Egypt and Algeria have ranked the lowest in literacy rate and educational attainment. 

2. Namibia is the only African country in the top ten list
Namibia has successfully covered the 80.2 per cent gender gap, a 0.5 per cent increase compared to 2022. It has 100 per cent parity in sub-indexes of educational attainment, and health and survival. Namibia is ranked 19th in economic participation and opportunity due to a regress in parity in earned income and labour force participation. Namibia has achieved 44.3 per cent parity in political empowerment as 44.2 per cent of parliamentarians and 31.6 per cent of ministers are women. Rwanda which was in the top ten list in 2022 has slipped to twelfth place globally. 

4. Ten African countries rank first in health and survival
Sub-Saharan Africa has attained the third rank in achieving parity in health and survival. Nearly 25 countries have achieved over 97 per cent parity in health and survival. Ten countries including Botswana, Cabo Verde, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Uganda and Zambia rank first. Niger, Liberia and Mali rank the least. 

5. Political empowerment rate drops in Middle East and North Africa
Political empowerment of women is at 14 per cent in the Middle East and North Africa region. The regress is one per cent from 2022. The parity has decreased in Egypt, Algeria and Tunisia. The Middle East and North Africa was the only region where there was a regress in parity in political leadership in parliament. In Algeria parity decreased to eight per cent this year from 26 per cent in 2022. Nearly 24 countries in the Middle East and North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa have below 15 per cent representation.

Europe
1.  The region in top
Europe has batched the highest gender parity of all regions and scores around 76.3 per cent. One-third of countries in the region rank in the top 20. Most of the top 20 countries hold a minimum parity rate of 75 per cent. The countries including Iceland, Finland, Norway hold the position of best-performing countries of the region, while countries like Hungary, Czech Republic, Greece ranks at the bottom. Norway with a score of 85 per cent holds the highest scoring country in all the four categories. Political empowerment has been excellent in Iceland, which holds the highest parity of 90.1 per cent, followed by Norway and Finland. 

2. Iceland: The top performer
Iceland continues batching first rank in gender parity for 14 consecutive years. The overall parity rate is relatively strong across all four categories. Although the country has a relative decline in its life expectancy, the educational attainment remains the utmost achievement reaching 99.1 per cent.

3. Greece: Ranks least in the region
The country holds the lowest rank of 103, and has one of the lowest rates of women employment compared to other European countries. Greece holds the lowest 82th position on economic participation. The educational attainment has experienced a downfall with girls completing the tertiary qualification. Although the country has established a strong legal framework offering gender equality, due to its poor implementation, unstable government and worsening economic crisis has pulled the country to its lower status. 

Latin America and the Caribbeans
1. Latin America and the Caribbeans maintains the position
The region has been able to bridge 74.3 per cent of its overall gender gap. Compared to the previous year, there is a 1.7 percent increase in gender parity. At the current rate of development, it is estimated that the Latin American and the Caribbean countries will need about 53 years to attain full gender parity. The region continues to face challenges that hinder women empowerment. Domestic violence and femicide top the list of challenges. 

2. Progress in economic participation and opportunity
The region secured third-lowest score of 65.2 parity, ahead of the Middle East and North Africa as well as South Asia. However, there is a 0.7 per cent increase compared to 2022. Jamaica, Honduras, and the Dominican Republic have shown the most improvement in economic participation and opportunity. 

3. Advance in educational attainment
Nearly 14 out of 20 countries have more than 99 per cent parity on their literacy rates. Further, the number of countries with parity in enrolment in secondary education is 16, while nine countries have attained full parity in enrolment in primary education. 

4. Highest in health and survival 
The Latin America and Caribbean region rank the highest in health and survival, outperforming the other regions by securing 97.6 parity. All countries in the region have achieved parity in sex ratio at birth. Furthermore, six out of 21 countries have attained full parity in healthy life expectancy. 

5. Second-highest in political empowerment 
The region secured 35 per cent parity in political empowerment which is the second-highest score after Europe. Nicaragua, which is the highest ranker in the Latin America and the Caribbean region, also maintained its global rank of seventh from the 2022. The share of women in ministerial and parliamentary positions surpasses 50 per cent in the country. 


About the authors

Rishika Yadav is a Research Assistants at NIAS. Nithyashree RB is a Postgraduate Scholar at the Stella Maris College, Chennai. Ryan Marcus is an Undergraduate Scholar at the Kristu Jayanti College, Bangalore. Sneha Surendran is a Postgraduate Scholar from OP Jindal University, Haryana. Prerana P is a Postgraduate Scholar at the Christ (Deemed To Be) University, Bangalore

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