It will take 99.5 years to attain economic gender parity at the present rate of change

Anna Triponel

March 9, 2020

International Women’s Day took place on 8 March. The Generation Equality campaign this year was focused on the idea that a gender-balanced world benefits everyone, economically and socially. And it’s up to all of us, whatever our gender, to make it happen. The campaign focused on six key themes: (1) championing women forging tech innovation, (2) applauding equality for women athletes, (3) forging inclusive workplaces so women thrive, (4) supporting women to earn on their own terms, (5) empowering women through health education, and (6) increasing visibility for female creatives. (See #BalanceforBetter, #EachForEqual and #GenerationEquality on Twitter for more.)

The World Bank’s recent Women, Business and the Law report looks at how women are treated by law as they begin, progress through, and end their careers, and how this aligns with the economic decisions women make at various stages of their lives. The study analyses laws and regulations affecting women’s economic opportunity in 190 economies in the areas of mobility, workplace, pay, marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship, assets, and pension. It finds that only eight countries (Canada, Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg and Sweden) provide women the same rights as men in the workplace setting. The typical economy only gives women three-quarters of the rights of men in these eight areas.

The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) recent Global Gender Gap Report 2020 looks at progress on relative gaps between women and men on health, education, economy and politics. The country with the highest score on gender equality is Iceland, followed by Norway, Finland and Sweden. Western Europe has taken the largest strides toward parity (76.7%), and North America follows (72.9%). South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa are at the lower end of the scale, with parity sitting between 60.5% and 66.1%. The WEF finds that it could take as long as 99.5 years to achieve global gender parity.

“Legal rights for women are both the right thing to do and good from an economic perspective. When women can move more freely, work outside the home and manage assets, they are more likely to join the workforce and help strengthen their country’s economies. We stand ready to help until every woman can move through her life without facing legal barriers to her success”                      

David Malpass, World Bank Group President, 40 Economies Make 62 Legal Reforms to Advance Women’s Economic Participation (January 2020, World Bank)

“At the present rate of change, it will take nearly a century to achieve parity, a timeline we simply cannot accept in today’s globalized world, especially among younger generations who hold increasingly progressive views of gender equality”                      

Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum, Global Gender Gap Report 2020 (2020)

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