81 years - that's how long more it will take for women to catch up with men in the workplace

If you're waiting for gender equality in the workplace, be prepared to wait a long time. -- ST PHOTO: RUDY WONG 
If you're waiting for gender equality in the workplace, be prepared to wait a long time. -- ST PHOTO: RUDY WONG 

GENEVA (AFP) - If you're waiting for gender equality in the workplace, be prepared to wait a long time.

While women are rapidly closing the gender gap with men in areas like health and education, inequality at work is not expected to be erased until 2095, according to a report published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) Tuesday.

The organisation, which each year gathers the global elite in the plush Swiss ski resort of Davos, said that the worldwide gender gap in the workplace had barely narrowed in the past nine years.

Since 2006, when the WEF first began issuing its annual Global Gender Gap Reports, women have seen their access to economic participation and opportunity inch up to 60 per cent of that of men's, from 56 per cent.

"Based on this trajectory, with all else remaining equal, it will take 81 years for the world to close this gap completely," the WEF said in a statement.

The world would be better served to speed up the process, according to WEF founder and chief Klaus Schwab.

"Achieving gender equality is obviously necessary for economic reasons. Only those economies who have full access to all their talent will remain competitive and will prosper," he said.

The report, which covered 142 countries, looked at how nations distribute access to healthcare, education, political participation and resources and opportunities between women and men.

Almost all the countries had made progress towards closing the gap in access to healthcare, with 35 nations filling it completely, while 25 countries had shut the education access gap, the report showed.

Even more than in the workplace, political participation lagged stubbornly behind, with women still accounting for just 21 per cent of the world's decision makers, according to the report.

Yet this was the area where most progress had been made in recent years.

"In the case of politics, globally, there are now 26 per cent more female parliamentarians and 50 per cent more female ministers than nine years ago," said the report's lead author, Saadia Zahidi.

"These are far-reaching changes," she said, stressing though that much remained to be done and that the "pace of change must in some areas be accelerated."

The five Nordic countries, led by Iceland, clearly remained the most gender-equal.

They were joined by Nicaragua, Rwanda Ireland, the Philippines and Belgium in the top 10, while Yemen remained at the bottom of the chart for the ninth year in a row.

The United States meanwhile climbed three spots from last year to 20th, after narrowing its wage gap and hiking the number of women in parliamentary and ministerial level positions.

Among other large economies, Brazil stood at 71st place, Russia at 75th, China at 87th and India at 114, the report showed.