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Only 118 Years To Go Until Women Get Equal Pay

The World Economic Forum has analyzed a decade of data looking at efforts to close the global gender gap in pay, health, education, and politics. Let's just say things are moving pretty slowly.
Cambodian workers in a garment factory in Phnom Penh. Photo by Mak Remissa/EPA

It's good news for your great granddaughters — in 2133 their pay packets will match their male counterparts'.

Figures released this week by the World Economic Forum reviewing a decade of data show progress to close the global gender pay gap slowed dramatically after the 2008 financial crisis, closing just three percent over the last ten years. Women are now earning the salaries that men did in 2006.


The global average full-time salary for a working woman is $11,102 a year, just over half the male average of $20,554. If progress continues at the same rate it has for the last decade, it will take 118 years to close the pay gap entirely.

There are multiple interrelated causes for the gender pay gap: direct discrimination, with women paid less than men for the same work or unfairly treated during recruitment processes or pregnancy; the tendency for higher-paid professions to be dominated by men and vice versa, a phenomenon which is both fuelled and perpetuated by traditional gender roles and stereotypes; and the fact that women bear the majority of family care responsibilities, forcing them to interrupt their careers or enter part-time work which is often lower paid.

The forum's Global Gender Gap 2015 report also looked at the gender gap in health, education and political participation. It used data from organizations such as the International Labor Organization, the United Nations Development Program, and the World Health Organization, as well as its own perception survey, to look at the four key areas.

Women are most equal in Nordic countries, with Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden taking the top four rankings out of 145 countries. Rwanda also has a very high ranking, at number 6 thanks to its policies to get women into parliament after the genocide. Around two thirds of its members of parliament are women, and it has more women than men in the workplace overall.


Yemen, Pakistan, Syria and Chad take the bottom four places in the list.

The United States' ranking has fallen eight places to number 28, ranking below Mozambique and just above Cuba and Canada.

There has been great progress in women's education worldwide, with more women than men now enrolling at university in 97 countries. However this has not translated into advancement in the workplace, with women forming the majority of skilled workers in just 68 countries and the majority of leadership roles in only four — Colombia, the Philippines, Fiji and Ghana.

And, just over a fifth of the countries covered now have wider education gaps than they did ten years ago.

"More women than men are enrolled in universities in nearly 100 countries but women hold the majority of senior roles in only a handful of countries," said Saadia Zahidi, the World Economic Forum's head of the Global Challenge on Gender Parity. "Companies and governments need to implement new policies to prevent this continued loss of talent and instead leverage it for boosting growth and competitiveness."

Almost 40 percent of countries have wider health and survival gaps than they did ten years ago.

Nicaragua and Bolivia are the countries which have reduced their overall gender gap the most over the last decade, followed by Nepal, Slovenia and France. Saudi Arabia has improved the most for economic participation and opportunity, Burkina Faso for educational attainment, Georgia for health and survival, and UAE for political empowerment.


Gaps were the widest when it came to political representation, with only two countries reaching parity in parliament and four in ministerial positions. Men and women were closest to parity in terms of health, at 96 percent.

Across the world, women account for 19 percent of parliamentarians, 18 percent of ministers, and 50 percent of countries have had a female head of state.

The US fell in its rankings because of slightly less perceived wage equality and changes in ministerial level positions, says the report. According to its scorecard, America has closed its gap in education and health, but doesn't fare as well in labor participation. There are actually more professional and technical female workers than male workers, but fewer women in leadership roles.

The US also does terribly when it comes to political empowerment with about two women for every 10 men in parliamentary positions.

Follow Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn on Twitter: @yukvon