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New global gender gap report says pay equality will be achieved in 257 years

The World Economic Forum’s annual Global Gender Gap Report for 2020, which was released on Monday 16 December, says that at the current rate of change, men and women will have pay equality in 257 years. That is 55 more years than the estimate in the previous edition. Worldwide, the average woman’s annual income is $11,500, versus $21,500 for a man.

The report found a 2% increase in the number of women in senior roles, but women’s participation in the labour market is stalling and financial disparities are growing. Currently, only 55% of adult women are in the labour market, compared to 78% of men. Meanwhile, more than 40% of the wage gap and 50% of the income gap still needs to be closed.

“This year’s report highlights the growing urgency for action,” the report said. “At the present rate of change, it will take nearly a century to achieve parity, a timeline we simply cannot accept in today’s globalised world, especially among younger generations who hold increasingly progressive views of gender equality.”

The report analysed 153 countries in their progress toward gender parity, focusing on four main themes: economic participation, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.

Of the four categories, politics had the largest gender disparity, although it has shown improvement from last year. Only 24.7% of the global gender gap in politics has been closed. This year, women held 25.2% of parliamentary lower-house seats worldwide and 21.2% of ministerial positions.

The global index ranked Iceland as the most gender-equal country for the 11th consecutive year, followed by its Nordic neighbours, Norway, Finland, and Sweden.

Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, and Yemen ranked lowest and the most-improved countries are Albania, Ethiopia, Mali, Mexico and Spain. The United States is 53rd this year, a fall of two places. The world’s second-largest economy, China, is down three to 106th.

The UK fell six places down this year’s global rankings. Despite successive prime ministers pledging to take decisive action to tackle the gender imbalances in politics and wider British society, the UK dropped from the 15th most equal nation in world to the 21st. The UK scored 76.7%, a slight fall compared with 2018. Most other industrialised western nations improved their performance. Spain jumped from 29th place to 8th.

“[The] UK’s economic gender gap comes in at 58th worldwide, brought down by big gaps in the estimated earned income of women compared to men (it ranks 102 here) as well as straightforward wage inequality (76th),” the WEF said.

Turkey is ranked 130th out of 153 countries. It stood at the same place in last year’s index and ranked 136th in economic participation and opportunity, 13th in educational attainment, 106th in the wage gap, 64th in health and survival, and 109th in political empowerment in the 2020 index. A 30-year-old woman in Turkey would be 196 years old when the country achieved complete equality. For every single US dollar a woman earns, a man earns 2.27 dollars.

There are many factors behind the disparity in earnings and career opportunities. They include women choosing lower-paid occupations, working part-time, the so-called “motherhood penalty” – doing most of the childcare and household chores and, not least, discrimination and bias.

Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, said in a statement: “Supporting gender parity is critical to ensuring strong, cohesive and resilient societies around the world. For business, too, diversity will be an essential element to demonstrate that stakeholder capitalism is the guiding principle.”

“This is why the World Economic Forum is working with business and government stakeholders to accelerate efforts to close the gender gap,” he continued.

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