Women on track to earn the same as men - in 202 years: WEF

Overall gender disparity across politics, work, health and education improved by less than 0.1 per cent, meaning it'll take 108 years to reach parity.
Overall gender disparity across politics, work, health and education improved by less than 0.1 per cent, meaning it'll take 108 years to reach parity.PHOTO: ST FILE

The good news: The global gender gap has improved, slightly.

The reality: Differences in economic opportunity, including pay between men and women, are so vast it will take 202 years to fully bridge them, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).

The group looked at several measures of equality between men and women in this year's Global Gender Gap Report, released yesterday.

Overall gender disparity across politics, work, health and education improved by less than 0.1 per cent, meaning it will take 108 years to reach parity.

The economic opportunity gap - based on participation, pay and advancement in the workforce - remains the area that will take the longest time to close.

The figures are a tiny improvement from last year's results, where the gap between the achievements and well-being of men and women widened for the first time in more than a decade.

  • 34%

     Global managers who are women. Income gaps have been "particularly persistent", with 63 per cent of the global wage gap closed so far. 

  • LESS THAN 0.1% 

    How much overall gender disparity across politics, work, health and education has improved.

"What we're seeing globally is that we don't have any country that's achieved gender equality, regardless of level of development, region or type of economy. Gender inequality is the reality around the world, and we're seeing that in all aspects of women's lives," said Ms Anna-Karin Jatfors, regional director for UN Women.

She added that "202 years is too long a wait" for economic equity.

Ms Jatfors said governments can help spur improvements with equal-pay policies and investment in parental and eldercare infrastructure, and by allowing women legal protections including job security during pregnancy.

There has been "minimal progress" since last year's report in measuring economic participation and opportunity, WEF said, with the worst-performing countries mainly in the Middle East and North Africa.

Only 34 per cent of global managers are women, and income gaps have been "particularly persistent", with 63 per cent of the global wage gap closed so far.

ICELAND TOPS

Iceland was the best performer on the list for the 10th year running. It also remained No. 1 for women's political empowerment, although it slid in female representation among legislators, senior officials and managers.

In October, Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir was among scores of Icelandic women who walked out of their workplaces to protest against wage inequality and sexual harassment. Other nations with female leaders - New Zealand and Britain - finished seventh and 15th respectively.

In Asia, the Philippines edged its way into eighth place on the overall global index. It was the best performer in Asia, boosted by gender equality in education, politics and an improvement in wage equity. The country was far ahead of the continent's next best performer - Laos at 26th. Singapore ranked 67th and China was 103th, coming in last globally in women's health.

Political empowerment is where the gender gap remains the widest, according to the findings. The US fell to the 98th spot for the measure, sliding from 66th in 2006.

Still, in the midterm elections last month, which took place after the survey data was collected, women won a record 102 seats in the House as of Nov 19, fuelled by Democratic opposition to President Donald Trump.

WARNING AHEAD

A new sector for gender imbalance is emerging, according to the report. The gap in artificial intelligence (AI) is three times larger than in other industries, according to an analysis conducted by WEF and LinkedIn.

Women with AI skills are more likely to be employed as data analysts and information managers, while men tend to be in more lucrative and senior positions such as engineering heads and chief executives.

"In an era when human skills are increasingly important and complementary to technology, the world cannot afford to deprive itself of women's talent in sectors in which talent is already scarce," said Mr Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of WEF.

In this area, Singapore, Italy and South Africa outperformed others. Women made up 28 per cent of the AI workforce in all three countries, the highest percentage among 20 economies surveyed this year using LinkedIn data.

BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 19, 2018, with the headline 'Women on track to earn the same as men - in 202 years: WEF'. Print Edition | Subscribe