According to the World Economic Forum’s 2021 Global Gender Gap Report, the estimated time for the gender gap to be closed has increased by a span of 36 years within just these 12 months. Thus marks the highest gain in one year since 2006, when the report was first published. Currently, the report estimates that an average of 135.6 years for women and men to achieve an equal status on a range of factors worldwide, instead of the 99.5 years outlined in the 2020 report.
“Globally, the average distance completed to parity is at 68 percent, a step back compared to 2020 (-0.6 percentage points). These figures are mainly driven by a decline in the performance of large countries. On its current trajectory, it will now take 135.6 years to close the gender gap worldwide,” the report states.
How was the global gender gap report calculated?
On examining data from 156 countries, the reports evaluate it on the basis of four indicators: economic opportunity, political power, education, and health. Thus, the global Gender Gap Index measures scores on a scale of 0-100 and gives countries their ranking.
What are the findings from the report?
The report marks some advancement for women in education and health but outlines statistics relating to higher economic hurdles, declining political participation, and workplace challenges for females, which has been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In politics, women currently hold only 26.1% of parliamentary seats and 22.6% of ministerial positions worldwide, emphasizing that the political gender gap is expected to take more tha0n 145 years to close if it functions on a similar representation. The report also highlights that the economic gender gap has seen a marginal improvement since last year and is not expected to shut until the year 2288.
This year, the new report adds data about three new countries for the first time, i.e. Afghanistan, which ranks 156th; Guyana, which ranks 53rd; and Niger, which ranks 138th. The U.S ranks 30th this year, with a rise of 23 places in the ranking due to a major increase in political empowerment of women. The country marked a boost of women's representation in Congress and a significant increase of women in ministerial positions as of January 2021, with the figures escalating from 21% to 46%.
The best performing countries are the Nordic nations as Iceland, Finland, Norway, New Zealand, and Sweden topped the list as the most gender-equal countries in the world. For the 12th time, in 15 years Iceland has retained the top spot with only 10.08 percent of its gender gap yet to close. Zahidi calls the Nordic countries a stark example of how to create long-term resilience for women by establishing care infrastructure to aid working families as well as support for workers who have been out of their businesses.
In the indicators that measure health and survival to track sex ratio at birth and life expectancy, India ranks the lowest. This is a consequence of the rampant domestic violence Indian women face or the persistent preference for male children that cause gender-based sex-selective practices. This further leads to messed-up sex ratios and deteriorates the already declining position of women in society.
The report also sees that the Middle East and North Africa region continue to have the largest gender gap, as the economic gender gap is very high with just 31% of women taking part in the labor force.
How has the pandemic resulted in a disproportionate economic impact on women?
Speaking to TIME, Saadia Zahidi, the managing director of the World Economic Forum, says, “The impact of the pandemic on women is still likely to be underestimated and isn’t fully seen in the data available so far.”
Zahidi highlights the fact that the consumer, retail, and hospitality sectors which have resisted many closures employ women in large numbers. With schools shutting down due to lockdowns, the older behavior perspectives towards women in n terms of care responsibilities have resurfaced in many economies
“Women, including white-collar women who are working from home, are now under a sort of double shift scenario, where they are primarily responsible for care responsibilities in the home, while at the same time obviously working under increased stress in the workplace,” Zahidi says.
With added automation under COVID-19, the economic participation of women has been impacted. WEF’s The Future of Jobs Report 2020 stated that 84% of employers are accelerating their digitalization agenda, and 50% of employers intend to accelerate the automation of jobs. Thus, according to research low and middle-income women who are disproportionately represented in the jobs are more probable to be affected. “The future of work has actually already arrived, and because of that, there has been a greater disruption to roles that have tended to employ a majority of women,” remarks Zahidi.
Measures to reduce the gender gap across the world
As a way to enforce recovery in the situation, the report recommends gender-positive economic policies. These include greater investments in the care economy by governments and creating ways to overcome gender segregation in occupations, where businesses adopt diverse and inclusive hiring and planning practices
Zahidi says, “As we’ve seen before in previous crises, crisis can be a moment of great change. And they can be a moment where we head towards designing, hopefully, a better economy and society.”
“There can be perhaps a tendency to think of gender equality as an afterthought, to think about the challenges associated with gender equality and the permanent scarring that may occur in our labor markets as something that we deal with later.” “Our point of view here is that we must do the exact opposite. This is actually the moment to embed consciously and proactively gender equality into the recovery,” she adds.