Rwanda eclipses Ireland on closing gender gap

World Economic Forum cites reduction in number of female Ministers

The Republic's progress on closing the gender gap has continued to stall following declines in health, survival, and the number of women in ministerial positions, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF).

The Global Gender Gap Report benchmarks progress towards gender parity across four themes: economic participation and opportunity; educational attainment; health and survival; and political empowerment.

The Republic was ranked eighth out of 144 states, slipping two places since last year when it dropped from fifth to sixth. However, the report found the State has closed 79 per cent of its overall gender gap.

It has however widened its health and survival gap, and decreased gender parity in terms of the number of women in ministerial positions. In all, six of the 34 Ministers in Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s Government are female.


More positively, the State maintains a fully closed gender gap on educational attainment from last year, and also sees an increase in gender parity in the number of legislators, senior officials and managers, continuing a steady trend since 2013.

The Republic was ranked 50th for economic participation and opportunity, down a place since last year. On educational attainment, it maintained its joint first ranking.

Last year’s report lauded the Republic for “improvements” on political empowerment due to an increase in the number of women in parliament. However, the State has this year dropped a place from fifth to sixth following the reduction in female ministers.

The health and survival category saw the starkest drop, with the Republic plummeting from 54th to 96th. However, the drop can be attributed to the narrowness of the gap globally.

The State has closed 97 per cent of its health gender gap, which is above the global average. Nevertheless, 34 states have fully succeeded in closing the gap, and another 61 perform marginally better than Ireland in progress towards doing so.

Rwanda in Sub Saharan Africa is ranked four places above the Republic after it closed 80 per cent of its gender gap in last year’s report to break into the top five for the first time.

That was mostly due to improvements on its economic participation and opportunity score, where it moved up six places on the back of improved parity in income. It remains the state with the highest share of female parliamentarians in the world (61 per cent).

Overall, the average progress on closing the global gender gap stands at 68 per cent - meaning an average gap of 32 per cent remains to be closed worldwide, compared to an average gap of 31.7 per cent last year.

On average, the 144 states covered in the report have closed 96 per cent of the gap in health outcomes between women and men, unchanged since last year, and more than 95 per cent of the gap in educational attainment, a slight decrease on last year.

However, the gaps between women and men on economic participation and political empowerment remain wide. Only 58 per cent of the economic participation gap has been closed, which was a second consecutive year of reversed progress and the lowest value measured by the Index since 2008.

About 23 per cent of the political gap has been closed, which is unchanged since last year against a long-term trend of slow but steady improvement.

This year’s report sees no new entrants to the top 10, which is dominated by smaller Western European countries, and particularly the Nordics with Iceland, Finland, and Norway occupying the top three positions.

On current trends, the overall global gender gap can be closed in exactly 100 years across the 106 countries covered since the inception of the report, compared to 83 years last year.

The most challenging gender gaps remain in the economic and health spheres. Given the continued widening of the economic gender gap, it will now not be closed for another 217 years. The health gender gap is larger than it stood in 2006.

However, the education–specific gender gap could be reduced to parity within the next 13 years. The political dimension holds the widest gap but is also exhibiting the most progress, despite a slowdown this year. It could be closed within 99 years.

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson

Colin Gleeson is an Irish Times reporter