Nordic countries lead in closing gender gaps

17th November 2008, Comments 0 comments

The ranking system is based on the gaps between men and women in health and survival, education attainment, political empowerment and economic participation.

Geneva -- Norway is the country closest to closing the gaps between men and women, according to a new report released last week by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Finland, Sweden and Iceland were the next ranking countries, according to the Gender Gap Index, with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Chad and Yemen listing at the bottom of the 130 countries surveyed.

New Zealand was the top ranking non-European country, making it to fifth place, followed by the Philippines.

"Certain countries are getting it right," said Saadia Zahidi from the WEF.

Even so, she warned against complacency and said all countries needed to actively take steps to ensure women achieved full equality.

"It is quite dangerous to assume the gaps will close by themselves," Zahidi said, noting that even in Norway there was still a 20 percent gap between the sexes.

Sweden had been ranked first in the previous two years, but slipped to second as it had made no progress in the last year.

Germany was placed 11th on the list and the United States was ranked 27th overall, having made some progress in closing salary gaps.

The ranking system is based on the gaps between men and women in health and survival, education attainment, political empowerment and economic participation.

Chine shot up 17 places to 57th, having improved in all the fields.

About 80 percent of countries ranked have made improvements since the index began in 2006.

"Greater representation of women in senior leadership positions within governments and financial institutions is vital not only to find solutions to the current economic turmoil but to stave off such crises in future," said Klaus Schwab, head of the WEF.

Some African nations managed to place very high when it came to economic participation of women like Mozambique, which was rated first in that category, but lagged behind in the other fields.

Meanwhile, in a separate report, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) said gender inequality remained widespread.

Two-thirds of the world's nearly 1 billion illiterate people were women, the UNFPA said, 70 percent of children who did not attend school were girls and women continued to earn less than men for the same work.

The report said working with community and religious leaders, using "culturally sensitive approaches" was the best way to ensure the protection of the human rights of women and help women and girls during a humanitarian crisis.

DPA/Expatica

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