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Girls & Women

Gender Equality Actually Got Worse in 2017, World Economic Forum Says

It’s been a tough year in the fight for equal rights around the world.

Sexual assault and harassment allegations filled headlines, the pay gap between men and women grew, and women’s access to healthcare and reproductive rights shrunk around the world over rate past year.

And according to the World Economic Forum, which measures gender equality on a global scale, 2017 was the first time in more than 10 years that the gender gap began to widen again.  

The WEF’s annual Gender Gap Index ranks 144 countries on four measures of women’s equality: economic participation and opportunity, education, political empowerment, and health and survival.

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While inequality grew across all categories, the gap grew particularly in the economic equality category, the report found.

The gap between women’s pay and men’s pay for the same exact job has shrunk to 2%, but the overall gap grew because women do more unpaid work, are more likely to be excluded from the workforce, are more likely to work in lower-paying industries, and are less likely to be elevated to high-paying positions, according to Quartz.

The current gap in income between men and women is so wide that it would take 217 years to close it, according to the report.

There are outliers — some countries have come close to leveling the playing field for men and women. Iceland has the smallest income gap between men and women. But the United States and the United Kingdom, the first and fifth biggest economies of the world respectively, are still struggling to close their gaps.

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“Gender parity is shifting into reverse this year for the first time since the World Economic Forum started measuring it,” Klaus Schwab, the founder and chairman of the WEF, said in the report. “Yet there are also many countries that have made considerable progress, understanding that talent is a critical factor for growth.

The report also included the good news that 96% of the gap in health outcomes between mean and women have been closed, and 95% of the gap in educational attainment.

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Economic and political representation were the two areas women continued to lag behind men in many countries around the world.

Overall, the Nordic countries once again ranked first in the world for gender equality, with Iceland, Norway, and Finland taking the top three spots.

Rwanda, known for its stark progress on gender parity in politics, was ranked fourth on the list and was the only African country to make the top 10, while Nicaragua was the only country from Latin America to make the top 10, coming in sixth.

Countries grappling with conflict and poverty found themselves at the bottom of the list, with Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, Chad, and Iran making up the bottom five of the rankings.