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Gender Inequality

Report Suggests Gender Equality Still a Century Away

While the push for women’s equality has made substantial progress over the last several years, a new report released by the World Economic Forum suggests that civilization is still a long way away from ensuring equal treatment of the sexes. Entitled the “Global Gap Gender Report 2020,” the report analyzes 153 countries and ranks them according to how successfully they enable gender parity. While the report found many areas in which societies have made progress, such as ensuring that girls have access to educational resources in developing countries, it also remarks that the pace of progress has been slow, as only a handful of countries in the world were determined to even approach reaching full gender equality. The report predicts the milestone of achieving global gender parity to be 99 years in the future, with the areas of Economic Participation and Political Empowerment being where the gender gap will likely take the longest to close.

The countries ranked as the most gender-equal include Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden, as the Nordic countries have some of the most progressive gender policies in the world. Finland, for instance, recently elected the world’s youngest female leader, Prime Minister Sanna Marin, and their Parliament contains an almost equal number of men and women. Finland and other Nordic countries also have policies like several months of paid parental leave, sophisticated sex education programs, and widespread access to abortion and birth control, which help to reduce the social gender gap in these countries. The World Economic Forum’s report focused on four main themes: economic participation, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment; and the Nordic countries were found to perform among the best in these areas.

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On the other end of the list, Middle-Eastern countries like Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, and Yemen were ranked lowest. In these countries, according to the report, women’s rights are severely limited, particularly in the areas of “divorce, inheritance, asset ownership, access to justice and freedom of movement.” In some of these countries, women are almost entirely absent from political life, and the rates of literacy are much lower for women than for men as a result of unequal access to education. And when it comes to employment, women in these countries are routinely discriminated against, resulting in a low level of female involvement in the workforce.

Though different parts of the world are making progress in closing the gender gap at vastly different rates, the overall social gap between the genders is gradually narrowing, albeit very slowly. The report found that the world has almost achieved 100% gender parity in the categories of Health and Survival and Educational Attainment, but has only achieved 58% parity in Economic Participation and Opportunity and 25% parity in Political Empowerment, leaving the Global Gender Gap Index at a combined percentage of 69% of full parity between the sexes. The report stresses the urgency of increasing the pace of progress towards gender equality, saying, “without the equal inclusion of half the world’s talent, we will not be able to deliver on the promise of the Fourth Industrial Revolution of society [or] grow our economies for greater shared prosperity… at the present rate of change, it will take nearly a century to achieve parity, a timeline we simply cannot accept.”

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Even developed, industrialized countries like Japan display shocking deficiencies in the area of gender equality. Women in Japan, for instance, perform four times the amount of unpaid labor as men do, and despite government initiatives to expand female participation in the workplace, women often have difficulty advancing into senior work positions. There’s no question that the project of achieving gender equality is a difficult and complicated one, as gender issues stem from social, economic, and political factors, but countries like Finland show that with enough effort these barriers can in large part be overcome.