SW Gender Equity Index 2008

Gender equity has many dimensions and it is not easy to measure, due to the lack of accurate, gender discriminated social indicators in many countries. In order to contribute to the understanding of gender-based inequities and to monitor the status and its evolution, Social Watch has developed the Gender Equity Index (GEI). This index is based on internationally available comparable data and it makes it possible to position and classify countries according to a selection of indicators relevant to gender inequity in three different dimensions: education, participation in the economy and empowerment.

In 2008, the GEI ranks the present situation of 157 countries, based on the most recent statistics available, and is able to determine evolution trends in 133 by comparing their present index with that of five years ago. (See the detailed methodology references and complete listings)

The index has a maximum possible value of 100%, which would indicate no gender gap at all in each of the three dimensions. The GEI measures the gap between women and men, not their welfare. Thus, for example, a country where both boys and girls have equal access to university studies would rank 100 in this aspect, and a country where both boys and girls are equally unable to complete primary school would also rank 100. This is not to imply that the quality of the education should not be improved. It just says that boys and girls suffer from the same lack of quality.

Education is the only component in the index where many countries have actually reached parity level. When parity is achieved no further progress is possible. But beyond the fact that many countries do not progress, the GEI education component reveals that too many of them are regressing.

In the two other dimensions, related to women's integration into economic and political life, no country shows complete parity yet.

The GEI evidences that income differences between countries are no justification for gender-based inequities. Many poor countries have achieved high level of equity, which is a positive achievement, even when that means an equitable distribution of poverty. In fact, the reverse is often true: many countries that have acceptable average figures in social indicators frequently hide behind those averages enormous disparities between men and women. The elimination of gender disparities can be achieved with active policies and does not require that countries improve their income levels in order to succeed (see section Money and equity do not go hand in hand).

Sweden, Finland and Norway continue to have the highest rankings in the 2008 GEI. Although the three countries do not lead in all the dimensions that make up the index (see gaps in Education, Empowerment and Economic Activity) they have good performances in all of them. Germany ranks forth and Rwanda -- one of the poorest countries in the world - takes the fifth place. In all these cases, the gender gap has been reduced through active policies, including gender quotas for political participation in elected bodies and pro-equity regulations in the labour market.