Pay Equity: Gender-Based Economic Gap Will Take 118 Years to Close, WEF Study Finds

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by Jenny David

Dec. 3—The slow pace at which the economic gender gap is narrowing globally “suggests that it will take the world another 118 years—or until 2133—to close it entirely,” the World Economic Forum said in its Global Gender Gap Report for 2015. Women are now earning what men did a decade ago, according to the report.

Although another 250 million women have entered the global workforce since 2006, the survey's first year, the earnings gap between men and women has closed by just 3 percent, and progress toward wage equality and labor force parity has stalled markedly since 2009/2010, the report said.

Overall, European and Central Asian countries fared best in the annual ranking, holding 14 of the index's top 20 positions, led once again by the Nordic countries. Ireland, in fifth place, was the highest placed non-Nordic country. The U.K. rose by eight slots to 18th place, while the U.S. fell eight places to 28th position.

Malta (104), Armenia (105) and Turkey (131) were the lowest performers in Europe. Countries in the Middle East and North Africa performed more poorly overall, Yemen coming in last place for the 10th consecutive year.

Mixed News

More positively, women's labor force participation advanced in more than 80 percent of the countries surveyed, Nepal showing the largest increase. Other countries with strong growth in economic parity included Botswana, Nigeria, Spain, Nicaragua, South Africa and Lesotho.

Educational attainment showed a more mixed picture. Worldwide, the gender gap in education now stands at 5 percent, down from a 7 percent gap in 2006. The gap has closed entirely in 25 countries, and women currently comprise the majority of university students in 97 countries, the survey found.

But progress has not been universal. The educational gap has expanded in 22 percent of countries surveyed, and there is a “marked lack of correlation between women's higher education and their ability to earn a living, particularly in skilled or leadership roles,” the report said.

Women fill the majority of skilled jobs in only 68 countries and hold the majority of leadership positions in only four.

Women in senior government and business roles made the largest absolute gains in Colombia, Ghana and France. Those in high-skill roles—such as professional and technical workers—made the most progress in Lesotho, Albania and Guatemala.

Gender Parity ‘Critical'

The 2015 index ranked the gender gap in 145 countries and in four categories—health, education, economic and political representation—aiming to “understand whether countries are distributing their resources and opportunities equitably between women and men, irrespective of their overall income levels.”

“We need to create a world where women's contributions and ideals are as valued as those of men,” said WEF founder and executive chairman Klaus Schwab in a Nov. 19 statement. ”Gender parity in our thinking and actions will be critical in helping to ensure that the future is served by humanity and not threatened by it.”

“Companies and governments need to implement new policies to prevent this continued loss of talent and instead leverage it for boosting growth and competitiveness,” added Saadia Zahidi, head of the WEF's Global Challenge on Gender Parity.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jenny David in Jerusalem at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rick Vollmar at

The Global Gender Gap Report for 2015 is available at