Gender Inequality Index

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Gender inequality remains a major barrier to human development. The 2010 Human Development Report introduced the Gender Inequality Index, which is a composite measure reflecting inequality in achievements between women and men in three dimensions: reproductive health, empowerment and the labour market. It varies between zero (when women and men fare equally) and one (when men or women fare poorly compared to the other in all dimensions). The health dimension is measured by two indicators: maternal mortality ratio and the adolescent fertility rate. The empowerment dimension is also measured by two indicators: the share of parliamentary seats held by each sex and by secondary and higher education attainment levels. The labour dimension is measured by women’s participation in the work force. The Gender Inequality Index is designed to reveal the extent to which national human development achievements are eroded by gender inequality, and to provide empirical foundations for policy analysis and advocacy efforts.

Gender Inequality Index from 2010 Human Development Report

Data for all indicators of the 2010 Gender Inequality Index were available for 138 countries. The world average score on the Gender Inequality Index is 0.56, reflecting a percentage loss in achievement across the three dimensions due to gender inequality of 56 percent. Regional averages range from 32 percent in developed OECD countries, to 74 percent in South Asia. At the country level losses due to gender inequality range from 17 percent in the Netherlands, to 85 percent in Yemen. Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and the Arab States suffer the largest losses due to gender inequality. Regional patterns reveal that reproductive health is the largest contributor to gender inequality around the world – women in sub-Saharan Africa, with a massive 99 percent loss, suffer the most in this dimension, followed by South Asia (98 percent) and the Arab States and Latin America and the Caribbean (each with 96 percent loss). The Arab States and South Asia are both also characterized by relatively weak female empowerment. The 10 least gender-equal countries (in descending order) are Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Central African Republic, Papua New Guinea, Afghanistan, Mali, Niger, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Yemen, with an average Gender Inequality Index of 0.79. The most gender-balanced societies under the Gender Inequality Index are the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden. Countries with unequal distribution of human development also experience high inequality between women and men, and countries with high gender inequality experience unequal distribution of human development. Countries doing very poorly in both categories include the Central African Republic, Haiti and Mozambique.

Limitations

The Gender Inequality Index faces very major data limitations, which constrained the choice of indicators. For example, the Gender Inequality Index uses national parliamentary representation that excludes participation at the local government level and elsewhere in community and public life. Also, the labour market dimension lacks information on incomes, employment and on unpaid work by women. The Index misses other important dimensions, such as time use – the fact that many women have the additional burden of care giving and housekeeping, which cut into leisure time and increase stress and exhaustion, is not taken into consideration. Asset ownership, gender-based violence and participation in community-level decision making are also not captured, mainly due to limited availability of data in these areas.

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