These are the best countries in Europe for gender equality

Iceland is the best country in the world for gender parity, according to the WEF
Nordic nations perform particularly well in the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2023, with Iceland top for a 14th consecutive year

How long will it take the world to truly reach a stage of gender parity?

According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), we’re looking at another 131 years before the gender gap can be considered closed.

Even then, at the current rate of progress, it will take 169 years for economic parity and 162 years for political parity.

The WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report 2023 finds the overall gender gap has closed by 0.3 percentage points compared to last year’s edition, recovering to pre-pandemic levels, but the pace of change has stagnated as converging crises slow progress.

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“While there have been encouraging signs of recovery to pre-pandemic levels, women continue to bear the brunt of the current cost-of-living crisis and labour market disruptions,” says Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director at the WEF.

“An economic rebound requires the full power of creativity and diverse ideas and skills. We cannot afford to lose momentum on women’s economic participation and opportunity.”

Launched in 2006, the Global Gender Gap Report benchmarks the evolution of gender-based gaps in four areas: economic participation and opportunity; educational attainment; health and survival; and political empowerment. Almost 150 countries are ranked by their gender gap score. 

This year’s global top 10 reveals European nations – especially those in Scandinavia – are leading the charge when it comes to achieving gender parity

Norway is one of the best nations in the world for gender parity

Nordic nations reign supreme 

For an astonishing 14th consecutive year, Iceland is the WEF’s most gender-equal country in the world, having closed more than 90% of its gender gap.

It scores particularly well in the political empowerment category, topping this subindex by a distance of more than 13% percentage points. This is aided by the fact Iceland is one of only two nations (alongside Bangladesh) where women have held the highest political position for a higher number of years than men.

Iceland is also a strong performer in economic participation and opportunity, thanks largely to its efforts to achieve equal pay

A standout finding from the report is the generally impressive performance of Nordic nations, with Norway, Finland and Sweden occupying second, third and fifth positions respectively. New Zealand, meanwhile, is sandwiched in fourth place. 

New Zealand is the best performing nation outside Europe when it comes to gender parity

In fact, Europe dominates the upper echelons of the list, ensuring the region overtakes North America as the best continent for gender parity. New Zealand (4th), Nicaragua (7th) and Namibia (8th) are the only non-European nations to make the top 10. 

On the flip side, fellow Europeans in the form of Austria, France and Bulgaria all registered declines of at least one percentage point in their gender parity score. 

Work to do in achieving gender parity

A significant contributor to overall progress in 2023 is improvement in closing the educational attainment gap, with 117 out of 146 indexed countries now having closed at least 95% of the gap.

While no country in the index has achieved full gender parity, the top nine ranking countries have closed at least 80% of their gap.

However, parity has advanced by just 4.1 percentage points since the first edition of the report, with the overall rate of change slowing significantly. 

Read the full report: WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2023

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