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World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2023 sheds light on persistent global inequalities

In its latest iteration, the Global Gender Gap Index 2023, published by the World Economic Forum, unveils a complex web of gender disparities persisting across societies worldwide. While the report charts some progress in selected areas, it underscores the considerable journey that remains to achieve gender equality.

The Index reveals that women’s participation in the labour force has seen a small recovery from 63% in 2022 to 64% in 2023, yet it remains notably below the 69% peak recorded in 2009. While this uptick signals a step in the right direction, it also points towards the protracted journey towards full economic recovery and equal labour force participation for women.

Parallelly, gender gaps remain evident in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) workforce. Despite gradual advancements, women account for only 29.2% of all STEM workers.

This statistic is alarming, given the accelerating importance of these fields in the future world of work. It is evident that deliberate interventions are necessary to increase female representation in these critical areas.

Another area spotlighted by the Index is the realm of political representation. Data reveals a modest rise in the number of women holding political decision-making posts worldwide. Yet, achieving full gender parity remains a distant ambition.

As of 31 December 2022, only 27.9% of the global population, equivalent to 2.12 billion people, lived in countries with a female head of state. This stagnation between 2013 and 2021 speaks to the deep-seated challenges women face in the political sphere.

The data further highlights a gender gap in skills acquisition. Information from the online learning platform Coursera underscores a disparity in enrolment across virtually all skill categories, except teaching and mentoring.

This is particularly concerning for technology skills like technological literacy and AI and big data, both identified among the top ten skills projected for future growth. Despite a less than 50% parity rate in these fields, women who enrol tend to attain proficiency in less time compared to men.

However, the Index does spotlight some positive trends. In the private sector, the scope of gender parity action is gradually broadening.

The majority of surveyed organizations (79%) have implemented Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programmes, with a particular focus on women. These measures herald a step beyond workforce considerations, encompassing inclusive design, inclusive supply chains, and community impact.

Yet, gender disparities persist on a global scale. A significant 48.1% of the overall earned income gap remains unclosed, marking a key area for concerted action.

Among the 145 countries included in the 2022 and 2023 Index, 96 made progress in bridging income gaps. Countries like Liberia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Burundi, Barbados, and Norway all scored above 85% parity, while Iran, Algeria, and Egypt displayed some of the largest income inequalities.

In terms of wages for similar work, Albania and Burundi are the only countries perceived to have closed over 80% of the gender gap.

Merely a quarter of the 146 economies included in the report scored between 70%-80% on this indicator. Contrastingly, countries like Croatia and Lesotho ranked lowest on this dimension, with less than 50% of the wage gap closed.

Within the East Asia and the Pacific region, countries including Lao PDR, the Philippines, and Singapore exhibited remarkable strides on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex. Singapore ranks 49 out of 145 countries.

The region’s parity score stood at 71.1%, reflecting a slight 1.1% decrease compared to the previous year. However, Singapore emerged as a beacon of progress, even achieving gender parity in the sex ratio at birth.

The report underscores the urgent need for collective, coordinated, and bold action to close the global gender gap.

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