Global gender equality: Which countries are closing the gap? 

Women in the UK earn almost 10 per cent less than their male counterparts, a percentage that increases with wages. In fact, the gap in annual salaries between top-earning women and top-earning men can be as much as 55 per cent.

Sadly, though unequal pay isn’t the only issue women in the UK are dealing with. Research suggests that British women are more likely than men to suffer from depression, be in debt and live in poverty.

Many of the issues faced today by UK women could be vastly improved if they had a greater political presence. Despite having a female prime minister and making up almost 51 per cent of the population, women only account for only 32 per cent of government.

Unfortunately, the UK is not alone in its struggle for gender equality.

Using recent data business card company eCard Shack have created a map revealing the most gender equal countries in the world, and some of the findings may surprise you.

The map shows data for over 140 countries which have been scored in four key areas including health, education, economy and politics.

Best countries for equality
  1. Iceland
  2. Finland
  3. Norway
  4. Sweden
  5. Rwanda
Worst countries for equality
  1. Yemen
  2. Pakistan
  3. Syria
  4. Saudi
  5. Chad

Iceland tops the table which considering their strong history in female leadership, comes as little surprise. In 1980 Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, the country’s 4th president, became the first democratically elected female president in the world! So clearly they have been leading the way in women’s rights for some time. But it’s not just Iceland’s past achievements that define them as trailblazers in gender equality. This year they introduced the world’s first piece of legislation requiring employers to pay their male and female staff equally. From 2018 private companies and government bodies employing more than 25 people will need to provide proof of equal pay or face fines.

Other Scandinavian countries take the following three places, namely Finland, Norway and Sweden. However, the rest of the top 10 spots are slightly less predictable.

In fifth place on the map is Rwanda, where over 64 per cent of parliamentary seats are held by women, the highest percentage in the world. Ireland takes sixth spot comfortably beating the UK which only just made the top 20. The Philippines, which scored well for its education and health equality, took seventh place, with eighth, ninth and 10th going to Slovenia, New Zealand and Nicaragua.

Other rankings include the US which was disappointingly low at 45th, just ahead of Australia at 46th. Germany took 13th spot on the map, just beating Namibia at 14th. France sits at 17th, only slightly behind the Netherlands in 16th place. Spain fell well behind at 29th, however Malta was the worst performer within the EU ranking 108th. China joined the table in 99th place.

Yemen sat at the bottom of the table with the lowest overall equality score amongst the countries studied, though it should be noted that data wasn’t available for every country in the world.

Pakistan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Chad were close behind all scoring less than 0.59 in the rating system.

The future

Since 2006 the global gender gap has narrowed for most countries, however at its current pace of progression the World Economic Forum predicts it will take over 170 years to close the economic gap alone. But for the countries that succeed, gender equality will bring great economic rewards.

Numerous studies have suggested that closing the gender gap could result impressive economic benefits, with some estimates suggesting that it could add an extra US$250 billion to the United Kingdom’s GDP, US$1,750 billion to that of the United States, US$505 billion to Japan’s, and US$310 billion to the GDP of Germany.[1]

Another recent estimate suggests that China could see a US$2.5 trillion GDP increase by 2020, and North America and Oceania could gain an additional US$3.1 trillion over the same period if they closed their gender gaps.[2]

So, the economic case for equality is clear and there is obviously no doubt about the ethical argument, after all women make up half of the world’s population and deserve equal access to health, education, economic participation, earning potential, and political decision-making power. Clearly there is still a long way to go, but let’s learn for the countries that are getting it right and make an equal and better future for both men and women all over the world.

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