Denmark is the country closest to achieving the goal of gender equality, according to a new report recently published by UK-based NGO Equal Measure 2030 — but no country has achieved total gender equality yet.
The Sustainable Development Goals Gender Index for 2019 report analyzes how governments are tracking on their commitments to promote gender equality. The report does so by compiling data and assessing countries' progress on goals laid out by the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The report ranks 129 countries, representing of 95% of the world, on a scale from 0-100, where 100 indicates complete achievement of gender equality across all areas of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including access to health, education, and clean water. A score of 59 or below on the scale indicates a substantial failure to establish gender equality when it comes to everything from education to energy resources to economic opportunity.
At the top of the list for gender equality across the board was Denmark with an overall score of 89.3, according to the report’s data. It was closely followed by a number of European countries, including Finland, Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands.
The United Kingdom ranked 17th, while the United States came in at 28th and scored “fair,” tying with Bulgaria at a score of 77.6.
Next year will mark five years since the establishment of the SDGs, and the 10-year countdown to the finish line will begin.
Progress on the 17 goals has been closely monitored by the UN, as well as participating governments, agencies, and organizations — and according to last year’s annual progress report, the world is not on track to meet these targets. Progress simply isn’t happening fast enough, especially for women. Experts say the world is behind target largely due to deadly conflict and climate change that have caused mass displacement and a rise in world hunger.
According to the 2019 Gender Index, hunger and nutrition, water and sanitation, health, and education are the areas in which countries have been able to achieve the greatest level of equality between genders.
But still, 40% of the world’s female population lives in countries that are failing to meet their targets for gender equality.
Even top-scoring countries continue to struggle to establish full gender equality when it comes to dealing with climate change, budgeting and public services, representation in powerful positions, pay equity, and gender-based violence.
Nearly all of the lowest-scoring countries on the index are part of the African continent, with the exception of Yemen, which ranked the fourth-worst country for gender equality overall. Countries in central Africa, in particular, were scored the poorest on the Gender Index, with Chad placing at the bottom of the list, scoring just 33.4.
According to the report, one of the reasons why analyzing the data and the issue of gender equality in itself is complicated is that while countries might score poorly in general on the index, they might still be leaders in specific areas of gender equality.
For example, the Latin American, Caribbean, Sub-Saharan African regions are the highest ranked in relation to women’s participation in government, though they earned low scores on the overall index, which also takes into account gender equality in the context of deadly conflict, natural disasters, and political and economic struggles. Countries like Bolivia, Senegal, and Namibia actually have a larger percentage of women participating in their governments than Denmark, which ranked highest overall.
Still, no country scored 90 or above, considered “excellent,” meaning every country still has aspects of gender equality in which progress is needed.
Here is the full list of the top 10 best countries to be a woman in 2019, along with their individual scores:
- Denmark (89.3)
- Finland (88.8)
- Sweden (88.0)
- Norway (87.7)
- Netherlands (86.8)
- Slovenia (86.5)
- Germany (86.2)
- Canada (85.8)
- Ireland (85.4)
- Australia (85.2)
The countries that fell to the bottom of the list, indicating severe inequality for women across progress on the Sustainable Development Goals, are:
- Chad (33.4)
- DR Congo (38.2)
- Congo (44.0)
- Yemen (44.7)
- Niger (44.9)
- Mauritania (45.0)
- Mali (46.0)
- Nigeria (46.1)
- Liberia (47.3)
- Sierra Leone (47.6)
While there is still much work to be done, the recorded progress in gender equality around the world — overall and by sub-issue area — allows for continued hope that the journey to 2030 will bring about a better world for girls and women.