South Africa has been ranked 18th out of 142 countries for narrowest national gender gaps on economic, political, education and health levels.
This is down one position from 17th in the 2013 report (out of 136 countries) – but the country still improved its positioning, closing the gap slightly with an index score of 0.7527, up from 0.7510 in the previous year.
The index, which has been running since 2006, is compiled by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and looks at the magnitude of gender-based disparities across the globe – basically, the degree to which women are unable to access the same quality of life as men in any given country.
The index looks at gender-based gaps in terms of access to resources and opportunities in countries, rather than the actual resources and opportunities available – and it focuses on real-term outcomes rather than inputs and other policy variables.
The index also ranks countries according to their proximity to gender equality rather than to women’s empowerment – for example, a country which has higher enrollment for girls rather than boys in secondary school would score the same as a country where boys’ and girls’ enrollment is the same.
These factors are measured across four categories: Economic Participation and Opportunity; Educational Attainment; Health and Survival; and Political Empowerment.
The most gender-equal countries in the world
The WEF noted that no country in the world has fully closed the gender gap, but all five of the Nordic countries listed in the index have closed more than 80% of it.
Yemen, the lowest ranking country, has closed just over 50% of the gender gap.
Thirty-five countries (two more than last year) have fully closed the gap in Health and Survival, while eight countries have fully closed the gap on both the health and education.
On the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, 14 countries have closed more than 80% of gap, and 25 countries have fully closed the gap in Educational Attainment.
Iceland was ranked as the country with the smallest gender gap in the world.
The country started in 2006 at the fourth position and climbed over the next years to occupy the top spot for the last six consecutive years, the WEF noted.
Iceland ranks 7th on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex; and first in both the educational gender gap and in terms of political empowerment.
“These scores offset the fact that Iceland ranks 128th on the Health and Survival subindex, where Iceland’s low score is due to its performance on the Healthy life expectancy indicator,” The WEF said.
Top 20 most gender-equal countries in the world
South Africa’s gender gap
South Africa (18th) has been among the top 20 performing countries in the overall Index since 2006, according to the WEF.
This year, it ranks in the top three countries from the region behind Rwanda (7th) and Burundi (17th)
SA ranks 83rd on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, having increased its score from 0.556 to 0.647 since 2006.
There was a slight decreased in its performance on Educational Attainment, moving from a score of 0.993 in 2006 to a score of 0.987 in 2014.
On the Health and Survival subindex, the country ranks first, having closed 98% of its gender gap.
“On the Political Empowerment subindex, South Africa has consistently improved its performance, with a 2014 score of 0.397 compared to a score of 0.326 in 2006, and is performing relatively well as compared to other countries, ranking 12th on the subindex in 2014,” the WEF noted.
South Africa was ranked as the top country amongst the upper-middle income countries, ahead of Ecuador (21st), Bulgaria (22nd) and Cuba (30th).