Social Institutions and Gender Index 2012
The Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) is an innovative measure of underlying discrimination against women for over 100 countries. While other indices measure gender inequalities in outcomes such as education and employment, the SIGI helps policy-makers and researchers understand what drives these outcomes. The SIGI captures and quantifies discriminatory social institutions - these include among others, early marriage, discriminatory inheritance practices, violence against women, son bias, restrictions on access to public space and restricted access to productive resources.
As a composite index made up of 14 unique variables, SIGI and its sub-indices provide powerful and interpretable tools to compare the level of underlying discrimination against women for over 100 countries and economies, allowing cross-country, regional and sub-regional analyses. The scores and ranking of each country is complemented with detailed country profiles which set the context and describe how social institutions discriminate against women with country-specific information.
Key concepts of the SIGI
The OECD Development Centre defines social institutions as formal and informal laws, social norms and practices that shape or restrict the decisions, choices and behaviours of groups, communities and individuals. Social institutions set the parameters of what decisions, choices or behaviours are deemed acceptable or unacceptable in a society and therefore play a key role in defining and influencing gender roles and relations.
Social institutions are not fixed, and there are often significant variations across countries, regions and communities. They are also in constant flux and change over time, albeit slowly. While social institutions in themselves are not inherently good or bad, discriminatory social institutions are those that restrict or exclude women and girls and consequently curtail their access to opportunities, resources and power which negatively impacts upon development outcomes. Through their influence on the unequal distribution of power between men and women in the private sphere of the family, in the economic sphere, and in public life, discriminatory social institutions constrain the opportunities of men and women and their capabilities to live the life they value. It is on these discriminatory social institutions that SIGI is focused.
The concept of social institutions has been adopted by several disciplines to draw attention to the role of ‘culture’ or social relations in limiting or enabling individual or collective agency. The most prominent theorist of social institutions, North (1990), describes institutions as “the humanly devised constraints that structure political, economic and social interaction. They consist of both informal constraints (sanctions, taboos, customs, traditions, and codes of conduct), and formal rules (constitutions, laws, property rights).” The ‘social’ aspect of social institutions refers to the way in which formal laws, informal laws, social norms and practices influence social relations or human interactions. By focussing on the ‘social’ element of institutions, the SIGI seeks to understand the extent to which the institutions that govern social behaviour and relationships, particularly gender roles and relations, have an impact on development outcomes.
Social institutions operate at and exert influence on a number of levels and involve multiple actors such as the state, market, household and community, which further adds to their complexity. While religion and culture are not necessarily interchangeable with social institutions, it is important to recognise the complex inter-relationship between religion, culture and social institutions. Religion and culture can have a significant influence in shaping social institutions by defining the parameters of what is deemed acceptable in relation to gender roles. For example, women’s restricted rights to divorce and inheritance or women’s restricted rights to participate in public space are often justified by religion or by the application of religious law. The SIGI is not intended to be a value judgement or ranking of different cultures, religious practices or the overall level of development of the countries. Rather, it is a comparison of key discriminatory social institutions that have a negative impact on women’s development outcomes.
There is now widespread consensus that gender equality matters for development, economic growth and poverty reduction. Improving women’s education, employment and health outcomes not only delivers benefits for women but for whole communities and economies. However, as has become apparent with the sluggish progress towards MDG targets, there remain significant obstacles to achieving equal outcomes for women and men on key economic and social indicators. Research using the SIGI has found that, discriminatory social institutions, such as women's lack of access to resources, discrimination in the family and gender-based violence are related to:
- Poor progress on MDGs such as child health, maternal mortality and primary school completion.
- Lower agricultural production and food insecurity.
- The feminisation of informal employment.
Policy interventions are too often designed without taking into account the role of discriminatory social institutions in driving unequal outcomes for women and girls. For example, interventions to increase access to education for girls often do not take into account the status of girls in the family, sexual harassment in the school environment or social norms such as early marriage. By capturing discriminatory social institutions, policy-makers and donors can understand and identify the often invisible areas where resources and interventions that should be targeted to promote gender equality, poverty reduction and development.
What is the SIGI measuring?
SIGI is based on a selection of indicators from the Gender, Institutions and Development (GID) Database. It specifically draws on the GID's social institutions variables that are grouped into five categories or subindices:
- Discriminatory Family Code - social institutions that limit and restrict women’s decision-making power and status in the household and the family.
- Restricted Physical Integrity - social institutions that limit and restrict women and girls’ control over their bodies.
- Son Bias - social institutions that foster intra-household preference for sons and the devaluation of daughters.
- Restricted Resources and Entitlements - social institutions which restrict women’s access to, control of, and entitlement over economic and natural resources.
- Restricted Civil Liberties - social institutions that restrict women’s access to, participation and voice in the public and social spheres.
- 2009 Social Institutions and Gender Index
- Family Code (Early marriage; Polygamy; Parental authority; Inheritance)
- Physical Integrity (FGM; Violence against women)
- Son Preference (Missing Women)
- Civil liberties (Freedom of movement; Freedom of dress)
- Ownership rights (Access to land; Access to bank loans; Access to property)
- Gender, Institutions and Development Data Base
- GID Variables: Family Code
- GID Variables: Social Institutions