Closing the global gender gap is one of the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs). The UN SDG 5 aims to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030. But the world is far from achieving it. In its recent update, the UN estimates it will take “140 years for women to be represented equally in positions of power and leadership in the workplace, and 47 years to achieve equal representation in national parliaments.”
A recent report by the World Economic Forum, finds the Asian region (East Asia and the Pacific and Southern Asia) trailing behind other regions such as Europe, North America, Latin America and Eurasia.
Exhibit 1: Gender gap closed to date, by region
Digging deeper reveals that the sub-region of East Asia and the Pacific, performs in nearly double the size when it comes to economic participation and opportunity than Southern Asia. However, gender parity performance in terms of educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment is near about similar in both the sub-regions of Asia.
Exhibit 2: Regional performance 2023, by subindex
Progress towards parity in East Asia and the Pacific has been stagnating for over a decade with the region registering a 0.2 percentage-point decrease since the last edition of the report. New Zealand, the Philippines and Australia have the highest parity at the regional level, with Australia and New Zealand also being the two most-improved economies in the region.
Exhibit 3: East Asia and the Pacific performance
Meanwhile, when it comes to the region of Southern Asia, its gender parity score has risen by 1.1 percentage points, due to the rise in scores of populous countries such as India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Bangladesh, Bhutan and Sri Lanka are the best-performing countries in the region, while Pakistan and Afghanistan are at the bottom of both the regional and global ranking tables.
Exhibit 4: Southern Asia performance
Progress by developing economies such as Bhutan, Bangladesh and the Philippines shine a beacon of hope in moving the needle to address gender gap. Other developed economies such as Japan can take cue from it.