Published on Taipei Times

Nordic countries continue to top gender gap index

Thursday, Oct 29, 2009, Page 7

Women remain far behind men in economic and political power, but the Nordic countries come closest to closing the gender gap, said a survey of 134 nations released on Tuesday.

The four Nordic countries X Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden X have topped the Global Gender Gap Index since it was first released in 2006 by the World Economic Forum.

They did so again this year, but Iceland replaced Norway at the top of the list with a score of 82.8 percent, meaning it came closest to 100 percent gender equality.

Two African countries X South Africa and Lesotho X entered the list of the top 10 countries for the first time while four others remained, New Zealand, Denmark, Ireland and the Philippines.

At the bottom of the list were Qatar, Egypt, Mali, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Benin, Pakistan, Chad and Yemen in last place with a score of 46.1 percent.

While many nations have made some progress toward gender equality, no country has closed the gap when it comes to economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment and health and survival.

Saadia Zahidi, head of the forums Women Leaders and Gender Parity Program, told a news conference launching the survey that of the 115 countries in the original index four years ago, 99 have made progress in closing their gaps.

The survey shows that on health, the world is doing fairly well, closing over 96 percent of the gap in resources between women and men, Zahidi said. On education, about 93 percent of the gap has been closed, but on economic participation and opportunity only 60 percent has been closed and on political empowerment only 17 percent.

So basically what were saying is that across the world, in general, women are starting to be almost as healthy and almost as educated as men X obviously with major exceptions X but those resources are not being used efficiently in terms of economic participation and certainly not in terms of political decision-making, Zahidi said.