Sweden Tops the 2006 Global Gender Gap Index

December 11, 2006
Liz Tempesta

Sweden is closing the gender gap faster than any other nation in the world. That is the finding in a new study co-authored by Harvard’s Center for International Development, the World Economic Forum and the London Business School.
The Global Gender Gap Index measures the size of the gender gap in 115 countries, covering 90% of the world’s population. The Index quantifies the inequality between men and women in four critical areas: health and survival, economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment and political empowerment.
The 2006 Index is an update of an earlier study launched by the WEF in 2005. Ricardo Hausmann, CID director and one of the principal authors of the Index, wanted to distinguish this research from other gender-related measures that exist currently. According to Fiona Greig, CID fellow and Index co-author,
“We already know that Chad is a poor country. We do not need
to reiterate that.”
Greig asserted that the 2006 Index not only examines more countries (compared to 58 in the first study) but will produce more accurate results.
“Last year’s Index measured both outcome variables such as educational attainment, but also means variables, such as, whether a government provides free childcare or maternal leave policies,” said Greig. In contrast, the 2006 Index does not mix means with outcomes.
In addition, Greig added that the 2005 Index didn’t establish objective boundaries for equality so it ranked countries in a relative way. For example, if more women than men are attending secondary school, that country would rank higher than a country where equal numbers of men and women attend secondary school. This year’s Index uses a 0-1 scale and is bounded by absolute rather than relative standards of performance. This means that the top performing country does not receive a perfect score of one, but its performance falls within a range.
Although no country has fully closed the gender gap, Sweden ranked high in all four areas of the 2006 Index and closed about 80% of its gap. Other countries succeeded in narrowing the gender gap and ranked in the top ten, including Norway (2), Finland (3), Iceland (4), Germany (5), Philippines (6), New Zealand (7), Denmark (8), United Kingdom (9) and Ireland (10).
One interesting finding is that countries are performing poorly for different reasons, Greig noted. For instance, wage inequality and political representation are Brazil's biggest problems, whereas in the UAE there are actually three times as many women than men in university, but economic participation is a problem.
Ultimately, the hope is that this research will raise the profile of gender issues, stimulate debate and serve as a tool for policymakers.
The view the complete Global Gender Gap Index 2006 visit www.weforum.org/gendergap


John F. Kennedy School of Government 79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
617-495-1100 Get Directions Visit Contact Page