Special Report

The Countries That Have Come Closest to True Gender Equality

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6. Rwanda

At first glance, Rwanda is an unlikely champion of equal rights. Unlike other countries at the top, it is not rich, has a turbulent history, and its life expectancy at birth of 67 years is low compared to developed countries. At 88%, Rwanda has one of the highest rates of female labor force participation in the world. In the United States, by contrast, that figure stands at 66%.

However, this outcome is not entirely by choice. It goes back to the country’s genocide more than two decades ago when close to 800,000 Rwandans were killed in three months. As a result, up to 70% of the country’s population were women, and they had to fill all the jobs.

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7. New Zealand

New Zealand has closed 80% of its overall gender pay gap, putting it at seventh place in the world, but at the top in the East Asia and the Pacific region. The country rose two spots since 2017 due to improvements in political empowerment of women. The increasing share of women in parliament has led to New Zealand entering the top 10 countries for gender equality for the first time.

Another significant improvement New Zealand has made over the last decade is in its attempt to close the gender gap has been in educational attainment. Nearly equal shares of the male and female population have primary and secondary education, and slightly more women have a college degree.

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8. Philippines

The Philippines is the second country from the East Asia and the Pacific region in the overall top 10, also improving its ranking by two spots from 2017. It has managed to close nearly 80% of its gender gap, the highest value ever recorded for the Philippines.

The better ranking is largely due to improvements in wage equality for similar work and women’s estimated earned income. Gender gaps have been fully closed in legislator, senior official, and management positions, as well as in the literacy and college enrollment rates.

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9. Ireland

Ireland’s gender gap ranking has been slipping since 2016, but it remains in the top 10. The country has managed to close more than 79% of its overall gender gap. Ireland recorded a small gender gap in enrollment in primary education, but saw an improvement in estimated earned income as a share of men’s earnings.

The difference between male and female life expectancy at birth in Ireland has completely closed. Likely due in part to the near-equal shares of men and women who attend college, the percentages of men and women employed in the nation’s professional and technical occupations are also near equal as of this year’s WEF report.

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10. Namibia

Namibia jumped three spots in one year to make the top 10 best countries for gender equality for the first time. (The only other country from the Sub-Saharan Africa region to do so was Rwanda.) Namibia has closed nearly 79% of its overall gender gap, which is about 10% more since 2006. The big jump is largely due to the country’s significant advances in women occupying parliamentary seats, for which it is currently fifth globally.

Last year Namibia received the African Gender Award for its progress in promoting gender equality, empowering women, and promoting women’s representation in positions of power.

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