30 October 2013
South Africa has the 17th narrowest gender gap in the world, according to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) latest annual Global Gender Gap Report, which was released on Friday.
The annual gender gap index assesses 136 countries, representing more than 93% of the world’s population, on how well resources and opportunities are divided among male and female populations.
It sets out to measure the size of the gender inequality gap in the four key areas of economic participation (salaries, job type and seniority), education, politics and health (life expectancy).
South Africa dropped one position from last year, but is still ranked ahead of the UK (18), Austria (19) and Canada (20), and is up compared to its 2008 ranking of 22nd out of 130 countries.
South Africa is also the second-best performing G20 country, after Germany at 14, and the best performing BRICS member on the index: the next highest is Russia (61), followed by Brazil (62), China (69) and India (101).
In Africa, South Africa is second only to Lesotho (16), but is the best performing country on the political empowerment of women, ranking eighth on this subindex globally.
South Africa ranked 54th overall for educational attainment, 78th for economic participation and opportunity, and 102nd for health and survival.
Other African countries in the top 30 are Burundi (22) and Mozambique (26).
Africa’s relatively good performance this year is largely due to the participation of women in the workforce. “Through this economic activity, women have greater access to income and economic decision-making, but are often present in low-skilled and low-paid sectors of the economy,” the WEF said.
Nosipho Dorothy Ntwanambi, deputy president of the African National Congress Women’s League, said independent research such as this “consistently reaffirms our assertion that South Africa is a better place for women today than it was in 1994”.
Ntwanambi said the government’s commitment to ending discrimination against women was bearing results. “Many more girl children than in 1994 are today gaining access to education, passing matric and obtaining degrees.”
The WEF report found that 86 out of 133 countries improved their global gender gap between 2012 and 2013, with the area of political participation seeing the greatest progress.