Article 1 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights5.1 states:
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Thus, gender equality is a basic human right. All men and women are entitled to live in dignity, in freedom from want and from fear. But gender equality is also a precondition for development and poverty reduction. Empowered women contribute to the health and productivity of families, communities and nations. As Helen Clark, the Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has stated,
Any serious shift towards more sustainable societies has to include gender equality (see http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/presscenter/events/2012/february/csw56.html). In 1979, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. Adopting such a women-specific treaty was considered necessary because, notwithstanding the existence of general human-rights treaties, as the preamble points out,
extensive discrimination against women continues to exist. Article 1 of this convention defined discrimination as
any distinction, exclusion or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil or any other ﬁeld. Thus the definition covers both discrimination of purpose (intended acts) and effect (unintended acts) as well as discrimination in law (de jure) and in day-to-day life (de facto).
Achieving gender equality requires the engagement of women and men, girls and boys. It’s everyone’s responsibility. Ban Ki-moon
Goal 3 of the Millennium Development Goals had the broad aim of promoting gender equality and empowering women. The target 3.a was specific to education, however aiming to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015. Broadly speaking this has been achieved, with most developing countries now enjoying gender equality in primary, secondary and tertiary level education. The Millennium Development Goals also reports improvements in other aspects of gender equality beyond the formal target. Women continue to experience significant gaps in terms of poverty, labour market and wages, as well as participation in private and public decision-making (United Nations, 2015). For example, Millennium Development Goal 3 target 3.a notes that
Globally, about three quarters of working-age men participate in the labour force, compared to half of working-age women,and
Women make up 41 per cent of paid workers outside of agriculture, an increase from 35 per cent in 1990, and that
The average proportion of women in parliament has nearly doubled over the past 20 years.
The 2030 Agenda takes a broader view of gender equality than education, and aims to end all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls everywhere (including sexual exploitation). The Sustainable Development Goals also aim to eliminate harmful practices such as forced marriages and genital mutilation, and ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health services. The new wider agenda seeks recognition of the contribution and value of unpaid and domestic work, and to ensure that women can fully participate in economic, political, social and public life at all levels, including access to economic, financial and technological resources.
There are many definitions of gender equalityUN Women (the United Nations entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women) defines equality between women and men (gender equality) as: the equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys.
more. But gender equality can be said to have been achieved when women and men enjoy the same rights and opportunities across all sectors of society, including economic participation and decision-making, and when the different behaviours, aspirations and needs of women and men are equally valued and favoured. Women and men interact in every sphere of existence – economic, social, political – so there is a range of ways that gender equality or inequality can be measured. For this reason, a range of different composite indices have been developed to try and capture this complex issue. The choice of parameters included in a given index affects not only the aggregate or global index but also the outcome at national level.
To provide a good general overview of the global situation, four different gender indices are presented and contrasted: (a) the Global Gender Gap Index (GGI)5.2 (b) the Gender Inequality Index (GII)5.3 (c) the Women’s Economic Opportunity Index (WEOI)5.4 and (d) the Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI)5.5 These indices are briefly summarized:
all too often women and girls are discriminated against in health, education and the labour market with negative repercussions for their freedom(UNDP, 2015). The GII is a composite measure of three aspects of gender inequality: reproductive health5.6, empowerment5.7 and labour market5.8. The purpose of the GII is to quantify or provide a measure of the human development costs of gender inequality. Thus the higher the GII value the greater the disparities between females and males and the more loss to human development.
combined result of various socioeconomic, policy and cultural variables(WEF, 2015). The index quantifies the magnitude and scope of gender-based disparities across the four key areas of healthGender inequality in health and survival is measured by using two indicators: (a) sex ratio at birth, which aims specifically to capture the phenomenon of
missing womenprevalent in many countries with a strong preference for sons; (b) the gap between women’s and men’s healthy life expectancy.
gender gaps in social institutions translate into gender gaps in development outcomes(OECD, 2014), such as the labour force, poverty levels, marginalization, education, vulnerability to violence and public leadership positions. These dimensions look at the gaps between women and men in terms of rights and opportunities as reflected in legislation, practices and attitudes. The SIGI is an unweighted composite index comprised of five subindices: (a) discriminatory family codeDiscrimination institutionalized in
family codeis measured using four indicators: (a) legal age of marriage; (b) early marriage; (c) parental authority; (d) inheritance.
restricted physical integrityis measured using three indicators: (a) violence against women; (b) female genital mutilation; (c) reproductive autonomy.
son biasis measured using two indicators: (a) missing women; (b) fertility preferences..
restricted resources and assetsis measured using three indicators: (a) secure access to land; (b) secure access to non-land assets; (c) access to financial services.
restricted civil libertiesis measured using two indicators: (a) access to public space; (b) political voice.
Despite being based on quite different approaches to gender inequality or discrimination, using different methodologies and being comprised of quite different subindices and indicators, a comparison of the indices at regional level reveal very similar results (see table 5.1). For three of the four indices, Europe and Central Asia have the lowest gender inequality and discrimination5.9. East Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean share the second and third places, depending on the index. Women in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and North Africa are generally judged to experience the most gender inequality and discrimination.
There is less consensus at country level. This should not be surprising as it would be extremely difficult for an individual country to score consistently well or poorly across the wide variety of indicators employed by the various indices. Nevertheless, although individual rankings may differ, some countries appear in the top 10 rankings of several of the indices. For example, Sweden is ranked first by the WOEI, fourth by the GGI and sixth by the GII (no data for Sweden are available in the SIGI). Equally, Belgium is ranked first by the SIGI, fourth by the WOEI and eighth by the GII. Several other countries (Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Slovenia and Switzerland) all appear in the top 10 of at least two of the four indices (see table 5.2).
A similar pattern is also evident at the other end of the scale. Here also a surprisingly high degree of consistency is evident. Yemen is ranked as having the highest gender inequality and discrimination by three of the four indices. Only the WOEI ranks Yemen third. Chad also appears in all four indices towards the bottom of the table, ranked as having the second highest inequality by the WOEI, third highest by GGI and GII and fifth highest by SIGI. Côte d’Ivoire and Mali also appear in three of the four indices as having some of the worst gender discrimination and equality.
|Rank||GGI Ranking||GII Ranking||WEOI Ranking||SIGI Ranking|
|9||Switzerland||Norway||Canada||Trinidad & Tobago|
|Rank||GGI Ranking||GII Ranking||WEOI Ranking||SIGI Ranking|
|1||Saudi Arabia||Liberia||Nigeria||Congo (DR)|
|2||Mali||Central Africa Rep.||Madgascar||Egypt|
|4||Iran, Islamic Rep.||Congo (DR)||Togo||Zambia|
|6||Mauritania||Côte d’Ivoire||Solomon Islands||Chad|
|7||Syria||Afghanistan||Papua New Guinea||Mali|
The four indices thus reflect diverse realities of gender inequality at the country level that largely overlap but do not exactly match. They indeed rely on different methodologies, weightings and most notably, input variables, accounting for disparities across the respective country rankings. The implementation of a PCA on all variables used as inputs in the GGI, GII and WEOI allows for a more synthetic overview of gender inequality. This analysis not only brings out correlations between the different sets of input variables but also highlights similarities across countries in terms of gender inequality.
Based on the data for 98 countries which represent 80 per cent of the world population5.10, the PCA emphasizes four main areas of gender inequality: the first reflects women’s socio-demographic status, the second refers to women’s economic participation, the third relates to women’s political and the fourth corresponds with women’s health. For each area, the PCA provides a score that is all the higher as women’s situation is better.
|Areas of gender inequality|
|Maternal mortality ratio||-0.327||-||-||-||-|
|General business environment||0.315||-||-||-||-|
|Women’s legal & social status||-||-||-||-||-|
|Education & training||0.325||-||-||-||-|
|Access to finance||-||-||-||-||-|
|Labor policy & practice||-||-||-||-||-|
|Adolescent birth rate||-0.346||-||-||-||-|
|Share of seats in parliament, female||-||-||0.642||-||-|
|Female with at least secondary education||0.367||-||-||-||-|
|Male with at least secondary education||0.37||-||-||-||-|
|Labor force participation rate, female||-||0.634||-||-||-|
|Labor force participation, male||-||-||-||-||0.518|
|Economic participation & opportunity||-||0.612||-||-||-|
|Health and survival||-||-||-||0.886||-|
|Proportion in total variance||0.459||0.141||0.139||0.078||0.184|
These four principal component explain more than 80 per cent of the total variance.
health and survival.
In figure 5.1, gender equality in the socio-demographic area is represented by the x-axis and gender equality in the economic area by the y-axis. The countries in the sample can be categorized into three broad classes with regard to gender equality in the socio-demographic area. The first class near the top right is mainly comprised of developed countries. The second class situated in the middle contains mostly developing countries of America and Asia as well as transition countries. The third class in the left is mainly comprised of countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
The developed countries in the first class rank comparatively high not only in the socio-demographic but also in the economic and the health area (figures 5.1 and 5.3). It is remarkable that in sub-Saharan African countries, that form the class in which women are reported to be most disadvantaged in comparison to men, gender equality in the economic area is measured on average comparatively high. Apart from these correlations, within the socio-demographic inequality classes there is considerable heterogeneity with regard to gender inequality in other areas. For example, while Yemen and Uganda have a comparable score in the socio-demographic area, women in Yemen appear much more disadvantaged compared to men in the economic and political area than women in Uganda (figures 5.1 and 5.2).
This heterogeneity helps to explain why the country rankings can change when different types of gender-gap indices, based on different indicators or different weights, are considered.
Likewise, socio-demographic gender equality in Italy and Iceland is equally high, but in the economic and political area gender equality is much higher in Iceland than in Italy (figures 5.1 and 5.2). By contrast, in the area of health Iceland ranks below Italy (figure 5.3).