Iceland is the country with the greatest gender equality in the world, according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020, recently published by the World Economic Forum. The Nordic island nation, with a small population of around 350,000, is now the top ranked country in the Global Gender Gap index for the eleventh consecutive year.

Iceland is followed by three other Nordic countries in the rankings: Norway, Finland, and Sweden. The Central American nation of Nicaragua is ranked at five, while Rwanda is the only African country among the top ten most gender-equal countries. The index ranks a total of 153 countries.

Iceland is the most gender-equal country in the world
Iceland is the most gender-equal country in the world

How is Gender Equality Measured?

The Global Gender Gap Index, started in 2006, examines the gap between men and women across four categories: health and survival; educational attainment; economic participation and opportunity; and political empowerment.

The methodology integrates statistics from various international organizations, such as the World Bank and International Labour Organization, and also includes a survey of executives. The data is then analyzed to allocate a score between 0 and 1 to each of the 153 countries included in the index.   

Education inequality between males and females
Huge strides have been made in recent years in closing the education gap between males and females

Top Ten Countries

The top-ten list of the most gender-equal countries in the world is dominated by European nations. It is as follows.

  1. Iceland
  2. Norway
  3. Finland
  4. Sweden
  5. Nicaragua
  6. New Zealand
  7. Ireland
  8. Spain
  9. Rwanda
  10. Germany

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Iceland has a score of 0.877 out of 1, with the top five countries scoring in excess of 0.8. While most of the top ranked countries score high on other global indices too, such as those on income, livability, security, and happiness, there are a few exceptions like Nicaragua and Rwanda, placed at 132 and 166 respectively in per capita income rankings (2018). This shows that wealthier nations are not necessarily the ones with the greatest gender parity, as confirmed by the next ten rankings.

Countries Ranked 11 to 20

The countries ranked 11 to 20 in terms of the greatest gender equality are as follows.

  1. Latvia
  2. Namibia
  3. Costa Rica
  4. Denmark
  5. France
  6. Philippines
  7. South Africa
  8. Switzerland
  9. Canada
  10. Albania

These include a blend of countries from various geographic regions and income groups. Latvia is a small East European country while Namibia is one of the world’s least densely populated countries, located in Southern Africa. Philippines is the top ranked Asian country in the index.

Income inequality between men and women
Income disparity remains high around the world, with the average man earning nearly twice the amount the average woman earns

Other Countries

The most improved countries from last year are Albania, Ethiopia, Mali, Mexico, and Spain, each of which has improved its score by 3.4 percentage points or more. Among other countries, United Kingdom is ranked 21, Cuba at 31, and Australia at 44. The United States is ranked at 53, behind countries such as Burundi (32) and Bangladesh (50). Russia (82) and China (106) are in the lower half of the rankings table.     

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No country has yet achieved full gender parity, represented by a score of 1. A total of 101 countries improved their score from the 2019 index, while 48 countries saw their performance unchanged. 

Rankings by Sub-Indexes

A total of 35 countries have achieved full gender parity in education. In healthcare, 39 countries have achieved near-parity, each having a score of 0.98, while many others follow closely. The top ten countries in the other two sub-indexes, economic opportunities and political empowerment, are as follows.

Workplace inequality between men and women
More women are engaged in unskilled labor compared to men

Economic Participation and Opportunity:

The countries where women have the greatest economic participation and opportunity are as follows.

  1. Benin
  2. Iceland
  3. Lao PDR
  4. Bahamas
  5. Belarus
  6. Burundi
  7. Zambia
  8. Latvia
  9. Barbados
  10. Guinea

Political Empowerment:

Women are most politically empowered in the following countries.

  1. Iceland
  2. Norway
  3. Nicaragua
  4. Rwanda
  5. Finland
  6. Costa Rica
  7. Bangladesh
  8. Spain
  9. Sweden
  10. South Africa
Political inequality between men and women
Female representation in central governments remains quite low despite a recent surge

Rankings by World Regions

The Global Gender Gap Report 2020 divides the world into eight geographic regions to analyze the average gender gap that has been closed so far. Again, the top ranked regions denote the greatest gender equality. The eight regions are ranked as follows.   

  1. Western Europe
  2. North America
  3. Latin America and the Caribbean
  4. Eastern Europe and Central Asia
  5. East Asia and the Pacific
  6. Sub-Saharan Africa
  7. South Asia
  8. Middle East and North Africa

The two most improved regions this year have been Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. All regions have improved their gender gaps by at least three decimal points this year.

However, progress towards gender equality remains relatively slow, particularly in many of the lower ranked countries and regions. The report predicts that if the trend experienced in the 2006-2020 period continues in the future, it would take another 99.5 years to close the overall gender gap in the 107 countries continuously included in the index since 2006.  

You can download the Global Gender Gap Report 2020 by the World Economic Forum here.