The Gender Equity Index (GEI) measures the gap between women and men in education, the economy and political empowerment. Social Watch computes a value for the gender gap in each of the three areas in a scale from 0 (when for example no women is educated at all and all men are) to 100 (perfect equality). The GEI, in turn, is the simple average of the three dimensions. In Education, GEI looks at the gender gap in enrolment at all levels and in literacy; economic participation computes the gaps in income and employment and empowerment measures the gaps in highly qualified jobs, parliament and senior executive positions.
Measuring the gap
The GEI measures the gap between women and men, not their well-being. Thus, a country in which young men and women have equal access to the university receives a value of 100 on this particular indicator. In the same fashion, a country in which boys and girls are equally barred from completing primary education would also be awarded a value of 100. This does not mean that the quality of education in both cases is the same. It just establishes that, in both cases girls are not less educated than boys.
Big Steps Ahead
Overall in the world, the gender gap in education is narrower than that in the other two components. While the world value for education is 71 (or LOW, according to GEI categories), that for economic participation is 42 (VERY LOW) while women participation in decision making reaches a meagre 17 (CRITICAL).
Women’s participation in the labor force is significantly less compared to men. They have substantially lower salaries for the same type of work and a higher percentage of women are employed in vulnerable or irregular jobs. But more importantly, in no country do women have the same opportunities as men to participate in economic and social decision-making processes. Women still take the back seat even if they have achieved significant strides in education and economic participation.
Even in those countries where the relative situation of women is better, the gender gap in empowerment remains substantial.
Education, empowerment and economic activity by region
South Asia and the Middle East and North Africa register the lowest indices in empowerment (13 and 19, respectively), indicating the low status of women and the lack of affirmative action to address the gender gap in these countries. Both regions, likewise, score the lowest in economic participation. Central Asia also scored low in empowerment (27) even as countries in this region are relatively doing well in women’s economic participation. Sub-Saharan Africa scored a little higher at 29 in the empowerment dimension which corresponds to the global average. Europe and North America register the best performance in the empowerment dimension with the index at 73. Following closely are East Asia and Pacific (70) and Latin America and the Caribbean (66).
Comparing GEI with other Gender Measures
There are other indices that measure the gender gap using different indicators and parameters. The Gender Inequality Index or GII, for example, includes education, parliamentary representation, labor force participation and reproductive health indicators such as maternal mortality, adolescents’ fertility and contraceptive use.
The World Economic Forum developed its own indicator, the GlobalGender Gap Index (GGGI). which measures four social areas: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, general health and political empowerment. The Economist Intelligence Unit launched the Women’s Economic Opportunity Index (WEOI) in 2010, covering five dimensions: labour policy and practice, women’s economic opportunity, access to finance, education and training, women’s legal and social status, and general business environment.
Although indices present their distinct emphasis and perspectives in measuring the gender gap, there are similarities as well. A comparison of the top and bottom 15 countries of the Social Watch GEI and the UNDP’s GII shows that 9 countries –Norway, Netherlands, Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany and Spain– are common in the list of top performers, while 6 –Saudi Arabia, India, Congo DR, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Yemen and Afghanistan– are common in the list of bottom performers.
GEI and Per Capita Income
Differences in income between countries are not directly correlated to gender inequity. Countries such as Rwanda, Nicaragua, Bahamas and Philippines have reached high levels of equity, even when many women and men live in poverty. On the other hand, in countries that have acceptable average social indicators, such as Japan, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, these satisfactory figures mask the fact that there are huge gaps between men and women. This shows that equality in the structure of opportunities in a society is a goal that must and can be pursued regardless of economic power.