Gender Equity Index 2012: The gap has not reached an “acceptable” level in any country

The achievements made by women all over the world towards equity in education are still very far from making an impact on their having a fair share in the economy or in political power. This can be concluded from the updated figures of the Gender Equity Index (GEI) 2012, published by Social Watch on the eve of Women’s International Day, March 8. None of the 154 countries considered in the study has narrowed the gender gap to an “acceptable” level.

The GEI prepared annually by Social Watch measures the gap between women and men in education, economy and political empowerment. The index is an average of the inequalities in the three dimensions. In literacy, it examines the gender gap in enrolment at all levels; economic participation computes the gaps in income and employment; empowerment measures the gaps in highly qualified jobs, parliament and senior executive positions.

The GEI 2012 has computed a world value for education of 71 (or “low”, according to the index categories), while for economic participation computed 42 (“very low”) and for political empowerment a meagre 17 (“critical”).

Women’s participation in the labour force is significantly less compared to men. They have substantially lower salaries for the same type of work and a higher percentage of women are employed in vulnerable or irregular jobs. But more importantly, as the index shows, the underachievement in economic participation and empowerment for women is verified in each of the 154 countries studied in the 2012 issue of the index.

Social Watch measures the gap between women and men, not their wellbeing. Thus, a country in which young men and women have equal access to the university receives a value of 100 on this particular indicator. In the same fashion, a country in which boys and girls are equally barred from completing primary education would also be awarded a value of 100. This does not mean that the quality of education in both cases is the same. It just establishes that, in both cases girls are not less educated than boys.

Through this procedure, the GEI 2012 makes also clear that the lack of equity cannot be justified by a lack of resources: the GEI mapping and that of each of its components show that, regardless of income levels, each country can reduce gender disparity through adequate policies.

Countries such as Mongolia (81), Rwanda (77), The Philippines (76) and Nicaragua (74) have reached relatively high levels of gender equity, even when many women and men live in poverty. On the other hand, countries with an elevated income, such as Japan (57 GEI points), Turkey and Saudi Arabia (37 GEI points) present huge gaps between men and women. The GEI 2012 stresses that these figures show that equality in the structure of opportunities in a society is a goal that must and can be pursued regardless of economic power.

The five levels according to which the index measures the gender gap are: “critical”, “very low”, “low”, “medium” and “acceptable”. No country in the world has reached GEI 90 points or more, meaning that no country has yet reached the acceptable level.

When considering the gender gap in terms of regions, the index finds that Europe and North America, both with an average GEI of 73 points (“low”), are heading the chart. The index stresses, however, that not all of the European countries are doing well in closing their gender gap. Albania (55) and Turkey (45), for example, score below the global average, which is 57 (“very low”). 

The East Asia and Pacific (69), Latin America and the Caribbean (68) and Central Asia (63) are also in the “low” level. Sub-Saharan Africa (52) and the Middle East and North Africa (43) are both in the “very low” category, and both below the global average, while South Asia is at the very bottom of the chart with 39 points (“critical”).

Out of the 154 countries computed, those achieving a better score are Norway (89), Finland (88) Iceland, Sweden (both with 87), Denmark (84), New Zealand (82), and Mongolia and Spain (both with 81), all of them with a “medium” GEI.

The five counties in the worst global situation are the Republic of Congo (29), Niger (26), Chad (25), Yemen (24) and Afghanistan (15), all of them with “critical” GEI.

Social Watch members are spread across all regions. The network fights for the eradication of poverty and its causes, the elimination of all forms of discrimination and racism and to ensure an equitable distribution of wealth and the realization of human rights.