Although the global gender gap has narrowed slightly in 2018, proportionately fewer women than men are participating in the labour force or political life. Access to health, education, and political empowerment suffered reversals.
According to the World Economic Forum, the economic opportunity gap is so vast, as it will take 202 years globally to fully bridge it.
The WEF explained in its Global Gender Gap Report 2018, published on Tuesday, that the world reduced 68% of its gender gap, as measured across four key pillars including, economic opportunity; political empowerment; educational attainment; and health and survival.
While only a marginal improvement occurred in 2017, the move is nonetheless promising, as 2017 was the first year since the report was first published in 2006 when the gap between men and women widened.
At the current rate of development, the data suggest that it will take 108 years to reduce the overall gender gap and 202 years to bring about parity in the workplace.
“Within the global headline figures, it is possible to perceive a number of trends that are defining the gender gap in 2018. Out of the four pillars measured, only one – economic opportunity – narrowed its gender gap. This is largely due to a narrower income gap between men and women, which stands at nearly 51% in 2018, and the number of women in leadership roles, which stands at 34% globally,” according to the report.
However, the report continued that in the same economic pillar, available data suggest that proportionately fewer women than men are participating in the labour market.
The report explained that there is a number of potential reasons for this, one is that automation is having a disproportionate impact on roles traditionally performed by women.
“At the same time, women are under-represented in growing areas of employment that require STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) skills and knowledge. Another potential reason is that the infrastructure needed to help women enter or re-enter the workforce – such as childcare and eldercare – is under-developed and unpaid work remains primarily the responsibility of women. The corollary is that the substantial investments made by many economies to close the education gap are failing to generate optimal returns in the form of growth,” according to the report.
Concerning the other three pillars – education, health, and politics – the WEF said that they saw their gender gaps widen in 2018.
In terms of political empowerment, the report revealed that the year-over-year deterioration can be partly attributed to the lower tenure of women in head-of-state positions around the world.
However, data also suggest that a regional divergence is taking place, with 22 western economies witnessing an improvement in political empowerment for women as opposed to a widening in the rest of the world.
“When it comes to women in parliament, these western economies – which collectively have closed 41% of the gap – saw progress reverse in 2018,” according to the report.
“The economies that will succeed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be those that are best able to harness all their available talent. Proactive measures that support gender parity and social inclusion and address historical imbalances are therefore essential for the health of the global economy as well as for the good of society as a whole,” said Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairperson of the WEF.
Regional and country highlights
Iceland was the best performer on the list for the 10th year running. It also remained No. 1 for women’s political empowerment, although it slid in female representation among legislators, senior officials, and managers. In October, Prime Minister Katrin Jakobsdottir was among scores of Icelandic women who walked out of their workplaces to protest wage inequality and sexual harassment. Other nations with female leaders – New Zealand and the UK – finished seventh and 15th, respectively.
Political empowerment is where the gender gap remains the widest, according to the findings. The US fell to the 98th spot for the measure, sliding from 66th in 2006. Still, in the mid-term elections last month, which took place after the survey data was collected, women won a record 102 seats in the US House of Representatives as of 19 November, fuelled by Democratic opposition to President Donald Trump.
Progress in political empowerment in the west has been slightly reduced, with the gap of women in parliament in 22 western countries being 41%. Yet improvement is being made in the rest of the world.
Concerning the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), the report stated that the region continues to rank last globally on the overall index (60.2% gap closed so far), with about 153 years to close the gender gap at the current rate of change.
The UAE (121st, 64.2%) sees improvements in gender parity in the legislators, senior officials and managers, and healthy life expectancy indicators, but there is still a wide gap in wage equality. Saudi Arabia (141st, 59%) shows modest progress, but marks improvement on wage equality and women’s labour force participation, as well as a smaller gender gap in secondary and tertiary education.
Egypt`s GDP to grow by 34% if females have equal opportunities with men in work: UN representative
Concerning Egypt, UN Women Country Representative in Egypt, Blerta Aliko, informed Daily News Egypt that there is a demand to increase women`s participation in the labour force in general whether in the private or governmental sectors.
The Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) previously stated that the percentage of female employees in the governmental sector reached 25.8%, versus 74.2% for males.
“We saw that the level of Egyptian women’s education and qualifications are equal, and on par with men’s, but their opportunities in accessing employment opportunities are much lower than them,” stated Aliko.
“The unemployment rate reached 23.6% for females, compared to 8.9% for males in 2016,” the CAPMAS formerly announced.
Egypt Vision 2030 targets raising the women’s participation rate in the labour market to 35% by 2020, and to 40% by 2030, according to the Minister of Planning, Hala Al-Saeed.
There are multiple reasons for women’s fewer chances in participating in the labour force, the most important one is women’s lack of required qualifications to meet the criteria corresponding with the job market, Aliko indicated
Engy Amin, project officer in women economic empowerment at Un Women, told Daily News Egypt that Egypt`s GDP will increase by 34% if females have equal opportunities with men in work.
She added that women’s representation in the labour force estimated to only 22%, in comparison with 78% of men.
Amin highlighted that most of women in Egypt works in the informal sector, and that more than 45% of those working in the agriculture sector are women.
She highlighted the disadvantages of working in the informal sector in some points including, having no health insurance, no pensions, in addition to not contributing to the country`s GDP.
Amin continued that women empowerment in terms of equality in opportunities and the freedom of choice is low, explaining that women entrepreneurs in Egypt estimated to 7.5%, which is very low, noting that women who owns their businesses represent only 17%.
She stated that this weak representation is due to many challenges and barriers, notable that most females are not risk-takers, and they also have no effective network.
Amin noted that many women do not want to work as they are not capable of balancing between house work and their professional work outside home, which lead to the lower participation of women in the labour force.
“In terms of the business atmosphere, women has no access to big corporates, in addition to lack of resources, including capital, humans, etc. Sometimes they lack the qualifications that match the market requirements, thus all of these add up to that low percentage,” she continued.
Amin said that women always prefer to join the governmental jobs, meanwhile the government now tends to reduce the number of public employees in governmental intuitions.
“Thus, women will get the way of being an entrepreneur, but the question is whether women have collaterals and enough guarantees to get loans from banks, the answer is that unfortunately most of them do not have,” Amin wondered.
She concluded that women who have land properties in Egypt are only 2%.
A new sector for gender inequality emerges
A new sector for gender inequality is emerging, according to the WEF report. The gap in artificial intelligence (AI) is three times larger than in other industries, according to an analysis conducted by WEF and LinkedIn. Women with AI skills are more likely to be employed as data analysts and information managers, while men tend to land in more lucrative and senior positions, such as engineering heads and chief executives.
A number of factors were at play here, the report said, including automation affecting jobs typically done by women and fewer women entering high-growth employment areas such as information technology.