Australia has continued its slide in the World Economic Forum's annual gender gap report

2005 – now officially the good old days. Picture: Getty Images

The World Economic Forum (WEF) revealed its annual global gender gap report today, and the results are depressing.

Australia slipped down to 46th on its ranking of countries by gender equality, behind four African countries and all major European countries (all of which are in the top 20), and down from 36th last year. 

And well behind New Zealand, which moved up a spot into 9th place from last year.

According to the WEF, Australia’s fall is:

“…affected by the updated estimated earned income scale, highlighting the continued existence of a gender gap in income for Australia.”

Compared to 10 years ago, it’s shameful:

And while New Zealand is moving in the right direction, there’s a few notable holes opened up in the past 10 years as well:

The annual report looks at progress towards equality between men and women in four key areas: educational attainment, health and survival, economic opportunity, and political empowerment.

Progress towards economic equality in 2016 has slowed globally, with the economic participation and opportunity sub-index dipping to 59% —  worse than any point since 2008.  According to the report, the global economic gender gap is not forecasted to close until the year 2196. 

That slowdown is partly due to imbalances in salaries, with women around the world on average earning just half of what men earn despite working longer hours, as well as a drop in women’s labour force participation, with the global average for women standing at 54% compared to 81% for men. This is despite the fact that women attend university in equal or higher numbers than men in 95 countries. 

The number of women in senior positions also continues to be low, with only four countries in the world having equal numbers of male and female legislators, senior officials and managers. 

Australia ranks 61 in political empowerment, and New Zealand at 16 in a list dominated at the top by the Scandinavian countries. The US – prepping for its first female president – is at 73.

“The world is facing an acute misuse of talent by not acting faster to tackle gender inequality, which could put economic growth at risk and deprive economies of the opportunity to develop,” according to a statement issued by the WEF.

More progress has been made in the education sub-index, with the gender gap there having closed 95%. Australia has maintained its number one spot but New Zealand and the UK have slipped to a surprisingly low 40 and 34..

Similarly, the health and survival sub-index has also improved, with that gap having closed 96%. Again, the Kiwis have some work to do, slipping nearly 40 places to 104 on 2006 levels.

Australia ranks with the US at 72, with the top countries dominated by central America. China is the worst country for women in terms of health and survival, at 144.

The slow rate of economic progress for women poses a particular risk because many of the jobs that usually employ women are “likely to be hit the hardest by the coming age of technological disruption” says the report.

“This ‘hollowing out’ of female livelihoods could deprive economies further of women’s talents and increases the urgency for more women to enter high-growth fields such as those demanding STEM skills.” STEM refers to a high education skill set consisting of science, technology, engineering and maths. 

The top four nations that lead the WEF’s report are all Scandinavian countries, with Iceland taking the lead, followed by Finland, Norway, and Sweden. The next highest are Rwanda, Ireland, the Philippines, Slovenia and new Zealand. Rounding out the top 10 is Nicaragua. 

The Global Gender Gap Index ranks 144 countries to understand whether countries are distributing their resources equally between women and men, irrespective of their overall income levels. The variables used to create the index come from publicly available data from international organisations like the International Labour Organisation, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Health Organisation among others, and from perception surveys conducted by the WEF.

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