Bloomberg Línea — The world still needs more than a century to close the gender gap, according to a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), which warns that, despite the progress made this year, the setback that intensified during the Covid-19 pandemic has not yet been reversed.
The Latin American and Caribbean region is no stranger to this trend and, although there has been progress, it will still take more than half a century to eliminate the deep rift in gender equality, according to the report.
Despite the challenges, the region’s performance is above the global average of 68.1%, according to the WEF.
Nicaragua leads in the regional measurement, and is also among the global top 10.
The Central American country recorded an 81% advance, thanks to the fact that it continues to obtain a parity score in the educational achievement sub-index, which measures aspects such as enrollment in higher education and the literacy rate.
In addition, the report highlights the performance in the political empowerment segment, as according to the WEF it has reduced more than 50% of the gap that exists in this area after registering parity in ministerial positions as of last year.
“Nicaragua has maintained in 2021 levels of women’s participation in professional and technical roles, as well as in legislators, officials and senior positions,” the report states.
The top three in Latin America and the Caribbean is rounded out by Costa Rica (79.6%) and Barbados (76.5%). Both countries obtain their best scores in the areas of education and health, with percentages above 90%.
According to the WEF, Latin American and Caribbean countries have closed 72.6% of the gap, an increase of almost 0.4 percentage points compared to the last measurement. But despite such progress, the organization calculated that it will take Latin America and the Caribbean 67 more years to reach 100% gender parity.
The report compares four areas: economic participation and opportunity; educational attainment; health and survival; and political empowerment.
Among the 146 economies evaluated worldwide, only one in five managed to close the gender gap by at least 1% over the last year.
Covid-19 set gender parity back a generation, and the recovery has been so weak that the world has not been able to compensate for the setback.
“The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean showed high levels of gender parity in the sub-index of educational attainment, where, by 2022, there is less than 0.5% of the education gap still to be closed (...). In health and survival, the region has closed 97.6% of its gender gap,” according to the report.
The worst performers
The economies with the worst performance in the region are Guatemala (66.4%), Belize (69.5%) and Brazil (69.6%).
The first, which is in the last position in the region, has a poor balance in the dimension of political empowerment and has yet to close almost 90% of the gap that exists in this area. The low number of women in parliament, in ministries or in the presidency drags down the overall result.
The report highlights that in Brazil, the largest economy in the region, the proportion of women legislators, senior officials or managers decreased by 1%, while the proportion of male workers in the same category increased proportionally.
In addition, the country registers a lower performance in political empowerment, due to “the reduction in the proportion of women in parliament (-0.4 percentage points), where 12 of the 81 seats are occupied by women (14.8%)”, the report states.
It is precisely in this area is where Latin America is performing worst, because although it advanced 1.8 percentage points with respect to the previous measurement, it has only closed 28.7% of the gender gap.
At a global level
At the regional level, Latin America and the Caribbean rank third behind North America and Europe.
The WEF highlights that six of the 22 countries evaluated in the region improved their scores by at least one percentage point, with Peru, Guyana and Chile having most improved their gender parity scores.
However, this optimism is not reflected in the global analysis due to the effects still being felt by Covid-19.
“The cost-of-living crisis is disproportionately affecting women after the impact of job losses during the pandemic and the continued inadequacy of care infrastructure,” said Saadia Zahidi, director general of the World Economic Forum.
According to the report, it will still take 132 years for the world to close the gender gap.
Although it has showed progress in the areas of health and survival (where it has closed 95.8% of the gap) and education (94.4%), in the sub-indices of economic participation and opportunity and political empowerment it has yet to close about 40% and 80% of the gap, respectively.
“At current rates of progress, it will take 155 years to close the gender gap in political empowerment (11 more than projected in 2021), and 151 years for the gender gap in economic participation and opportunity,” the report adds.
On the positive side, more than 140 countries have already closed at least 95% of their health gaps and closing the gender gap in education would take 22 years, a shorter time compared to the other metrics.
“In the face of a weak recovery, governments and businesses must make two sets of efforts: targeted policies to support women’s return to the workforce, and the development of women’s talent in the industries of the future. Otherwise, we risk permanently eroding the gains of recent decades and losing the future economic benefits of diversity,” Zahid added.
Iceland, at the top
The top countries in the WEF’s measurement are Iceland (90.8%), Finland (86%) and Norway (84.5%).
The former has led the list for 13 consecutive years, scoring its best result in education, with 99.3% of the gap closed, followed by the health and survival sub-index. It is also the global leader in political participation after managing to eliminate 87.4% of the gender gap.
“Iceland scores highest in the entire index because it has had a higher proportion than other countries of women as heads of state over the past 50 years, as well as having a comparatively high proportion of women represented in parliament,” the report explains.
By region, North America performs best, with 76.9% of its gender gap closed, with a slight improvement in the United States and stagnation in Canada.
Europe follows with 76.6% and would need 60 years to close the gender gap. The WEF highlights that six of the top 10 countries are European, while nine of the 35 countries in the region have improved their score by at least 1%.
Translated from the Spanish by Adam Critchley