Special Report

The Most Unfair Countries For Women

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By many measures, the United States is the wealthiest economy in the world. However, according to a recent survey, women do not benefit nearly as much as men. The U.S. ranked 23rd in the world for gender equality, behind countries including South Africa, Cuba, and the Philippines.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) report, the 2013 Global Gender Gap Report, measured the disparities between men and women in 136 countries. In the nations that scored the worst, economic and educational opportunities, as well as political representation and health outcomes, were far worse for women than for men. According to the report, Iceland was the best country for gender equality, while Yemen was the worst. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 nations with the worst gender-based inequality.

Click here to see the Most Unfair Countries For Women

The world’s worst countries for gender inequality consistently failed to provide the same education opportunities for women that were available for men. Five of these nations were among the bottom 10 countries measured for equality of educational attainment.

According to the most recently available data, just 49% of Yemeni women and 40% of Pakistani women were literate, compared to 82% and 69% of men, respectively. Last year, the Pakistani Taliban shot teenager Malala Yousafzai for actively promoting girls’ right to an education. She survived and was nominated for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize for her activism.

Women in countries with extreme gender inequality frequently also lack representation in political office. Women accounted for at least 20% of parliament in only three of the 10 worst nations. In Yemen, there are no female members of parliament. Only one of these nations, Pakistan, has had a female head of state in the last 50 years. Pakistan’s former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto — the sole woman to lead any of these countries — was assassinated in 2007.

While the rank is based on the inequality between men and women, the nations also tended to among the worst countries for women overall. Nine of them had among the world’s worst labor force participation rates. Similarly, in half of the nations more than half of all women were illiterate, according to the latest available data.

24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 10 nations that received the worst score in the World Economic Forum’s 2013 Global Gender Gap Report. Each country was graded based on its score in four key areas: economic participation and opportunity; educational attainment; health and survival; and political empowerment. Countries scored worse by each measure when the gap between men and women for that measure was the widest. For example, women in Yemen do not have the lowest literacy rate in the world, but the gap between men and women by that measure is the widest, so Yemen received the lowest score for literacy. At the time the WEF produced their study all figures represented the most recently available data.

These are the most unfair countries for women.

10. Saudi Arabia
> Income gap: 19% (3rd worst)
> Labor force participation (m/f): 76%/18%
> Literacy rate (m/f): 91%/82%
> Pct. women in parliament: 20%

Only 18% of working age Saudi women are part of the workforce, less than only four other countries. Saudi women earn an estimated $7,156 annually, while Saudi men made around $37,661 on average — one of the widest gaps globally. Saudi Arabia is also the only country where women are not allowed to drive. This past Saturday, activists called upon Saudi women to violate the ban. The rule is one of many separating women from men in the country: “Guardianship laws” include prohibitions on women from marrying, working, or travelling abroad without male permission.

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9. Mali
> Income gap: 41% (20th worst)
> Labor force participation (m/f): 71%/38%
> Literacy rate (m/f): 43%/25%
> Pct. women in parliament: 10%

Low educational attainment is a major contributor to gender inequality in Mali, with only four countries receiving worse marks from the WEF. Women were far less likely than men to be literate. Just 25% of the women aged 15 and over surveyed were able to read and write a simple sentence about their lives, among the lowest rates in the world. Although educational attainment is poor among both genders, Malian girls and women are less likely than their male counterparts to be enrolled at each level of education. This disparity worsens at higher levels of education. In addition to a wide gender imbalance, the country has recently had to deal with considerable internal unrest. Last year, Islamic extremists took advantage of the instability that followed a coup in Mali’s capital, Bamako, and seized power in northern Mali. This lead to a brief war, during which France and bordering nations helped secure Mali against rebel forces.

8. Morocco
> Income gap: 28% (tied-12th worst)
> Labor force participation (m/f): 78%/26%
> Literacy rate (m/f): 76%/58%
> Pct. women in parliament: 17%

Only about one in four working age women in Morocco were part of the labor force, one of the lowest proportions of all the countries reviewed by the WEF. This trend mirrors the social expectation in Morocco that women stay at home and go out only seldomly. Women in Morocco are also among the least likely to be literate, with only just over half of the female population aged 15 and over statement about their lives. Despite the gender-based disparities in educational attainment in the country — Morocco scored worse than over 100 other countries in this category — there is still evidence of a female voice in the country. An exhibition currently at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston features work by female photographers from Morocco and several Arab countries.

7. Iran
> Income gap: 21% (tied-4th worst)
> Labor force participation (m/f): 75%/17%
> Literacy rate (m/f): 89%/81%
> Pct. women in parliament: 3%

Iran received some of the lowest scores in the world for its gender disparities in economic participation. While 75% of working age men were in the labor force, just 17% of working age women participate, lower than all but three other nations. Estimated earned incomes differ considerably between both genders, as well, with men earning nearly five times what women do. Politically, the nation is male dominated: Just 3% of members of parliament are women, and men outnumber women in ministerial positions ten to one. A recent report from a U.N. representative noted 30 female presidential candidates were all ruled ineligible for the country’s presidential election due to their gender.

ALSO READ: The Most Educated Countries in the World

6. Ivory Coast
> Income gap: 48% (35th worst)
> Labor force participation (m/f): 82%/52%
> Literacy rate (m/f): 66%/48%
> Pct. women in parliament: 10%

Eleven percent of appropriately aged men were enrolled in some form of tertiary education in the Ivory Coast, compared to just 6% of women. The state of health in the Ivory Coast was poor, but residents, whether they are male or female, had similar healthy life expectancies. The overall gap between men and women in the country is wide, but women are not completely helpless in the country. Laurent Gbagbo, the former president responsible for the country’s recent civil war, is said to have shared power with his wife, Simone. She is regarded by the international community as equally responsible for the violence following her husband’s loss of the presidency in 2010. Recently, however, the Ivorian government rejected an arrest warrant for the former first lady the first issued for a woman by the International Criminal Court.

5. Mauritania
> Income gap: 28% (tied-12th lowest)
> Labor force participation (m/f): 80%/29%
> Literacy rate (m/f): 65%/52%
> Pct. women in parliament: 22%

Mauritania’s gender gap for health is actually among the best in the world. Healthy women are expected to live in normal health for three years longer on average than men. However, by measures of equality in education and economic participation, the West African nation is among the worst in the world. Just 29% of women are actively involved in the labor force, compared to 80% of men. Women also earned just 28% of what men earn on average, the worst wage gap of any country measured by the WEF. Another factor making matters worse for Mauritanian women is the well-documented persistence of slavery in the country. It has been reported that women are subject to forced marriages and sexual abuse.

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4. Syria
> Income gap: 15% (the worst)
> Labor force participation (m/f): 75%/14%
> Literacy rate (m/f): 90%/78%
> Pct. women in parliament: 12%

Syria has never known a female leader. However, two women — Suhair Atassi and Razan Zaitouneh — have been key leaders in the uprising against President Bashar Assad. According to USA Today, these Syrian women are poised to put Syria in the forefront of female representation in the Arab world. Atassi and Zaitouneh are exceptional in Syria, however, where only 14% of working-age women participated in the labor force, the lowest percentage of all the countries reviewed by the WEF. Three-quarters of working-age men, on the other hand, are engaged in the labor market. The ratio is one of the most imbalanced in the world.

3. Chad
> Income gap: 62% (58th best)
> Labor force participation (m/f): 80%/65%
> Literacy rate (m/f): 46%/25%
> Pct. women in parliament: 15%

When asked to read a simple written sentence about everyday life, only one-quarter of women in Chad could do so, compared with about half of men. Poor literacy among women may be due in part to low enrollment in school. While nearly three-quarters of eligible boys attended primary school, only just over half of eligible girls do. Most female students do not continue to secondary education, with only 5% appropriately-aged females enrolled, less than a third of the rate for males. Low life expectancy and the many health concerns in the country, however, do not discriminate. Both men and women can expect to live about the same healthy number of years. According to Amnesty International, Chadian authorities have “consistently failed to prevent and address sexual violence by both state and non-state agents.”

2. Pakistan 
> Income gap: 21% (4th worst)
> Labor force participation (m/f): 86%/23%
> Literacy rate (m/f): 69%/40%
> Pct. women in parliament: 20%

Only one other nation, Syria, received worse scores than Pakistan for inequality in economic opportunities between genders. Just 23% of women participate in the workforce, versus 86% of men, one of the widest disparities in the world. Just 3% of all individuals in managerial and leadership positions are women, worse than any nation except Yemen. The nation also received some of the worst marks for gender gaps in educational attainment. Just 40% of women can read, versus 69% of men, and just 65% of appropriately-aged girls are enrolled in primary school, versus 79% of boys the same age. Pakistan is one of just six nations in which a woman’s healthy life expectancy was shorter than a man’s. However, unlike the U.S., Pakistan has had a female head of state. Benazir Bhutto served as prime minister from 1988 to 1990, and from 1993 until 1996. She was assassinated in late 2007.

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1. Yemen
> Income gap: 27% (8th worst)
> Labor force participation (m/f): 74%/26%
> Literacy rate (m/f): 82%/49%
> Pct. women in parliament: 0%

Yemen is, according to the WEF, the worst country for gender equality. The country had the worst representation by women in managerial or leadership positions. Just one out of every 50 legislators, senior officials and managers was a woman, the worst ratio of any country measured. Yemen is one of the few countries that does not have a single woman in parliament. Women are often not considered legitimate witnesses in court without a male to back up their story, and they are not allowed to testify at all on many issues. Less than half of the country’s women can read, compared to 82% of men. The country also scores very poorly for education equality. Just 31% of women of the eligible age for secondary education were enrolled, compared to nearly half of all men.

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