Asia-Pacific

Nordic Nations Most Gender Equal as Gap Widens

WEF report: Pandemic “rolls back years of progress” on gender equality.

The pandemic has set back the gender gap, but Nordic nations have still remained among the most gender-equal countries, a World Economic Forum (WEF) report has found.

According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2021, Iceland was ahead of any other country in the world, followed by Finland, Norway, New Zealand and Sweden.

East Asia and the Pacific is one of the three most-improved regions, having narrowed its gender gaps on three of the four sub-indexes (economic, education, health) but regressing on the political gender gap, the report said.

The WEF measures gender-based gaps across four key dimensions (economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment) by using Global Gender Gap Index benchmarks, and tracks progress towards closing these gaps over time.

The pandemic has grown the gender gap by 0.6 percentage points and closing it will take 135.6 years, preliminary evidence of the report has shown.

It suggests that the health emergency and the related economic downturn have impacted women more severely than men, partially re-opening gaps that had already been closed.

Early projections from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) suggest 5% of all employed women lost their jobs, compared with 3.9% of employed men.

But while the gender gap in regard to economic participation and opportunity remains the second largest of the four key gaps tracked by the index (58% of this gap has been closed so far), the gap has seen marginal improvement since the last edition of the report.

The gender gap representing political empowerment remains the largest of the four gaps tracked, with only 22% closed to date, and has since last year widened by 2.4 percentage points.

Across the 156 countries covered by the index, women represent 26.1% of some 35,500 parliament seats and 22.6% of over 3,400 ministers worldwide. In 81 countries, there has never been a woman head of state, as of January 2021.

“The pandemic has fundamentally impacted gender equality in both the workplace and the home, rolling back years of progress. If we want a dynamic future economy, it is vital for women to be represented in the jobs of tomorrow.

“This is the moment to embed gender parity by design into the recovery,” said Saadia Zahidi, a Managing Director at the World Economic Forum.

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