Tuesday, 18 March 2014

The State of Gender Equality in South Africa

Despite a good overall ranking in the Gender Equality Stakes, South Africa’s performance in this area does not seem to be translating in to real benefits for women in terms of Healthcare, Education and Economic Empowerment.

According to the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Report for 2013, of the 136 countries included in the report, South Africa ranks 17th overall - ahead of the UK, Canada, US and Australia.  South Africa is in 2nd place in the “upper-middle income group” of countries (as identified the by the World Bank).

A closer look at the data shows a different picture, however. There are large variations in the individual indices used to make up the rankings, and in all indices except political empowerment South Africa generally lags behind her closest neighbours (i.e. Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana and Lesotho).

The Global Gender Gap Index benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, political, education and health criteria, and provides country rankings that allow for comparisons across regions and income groups, and over time. The Index focusses on gender disparities in access rather than on absolute levels of these indices.

South Africa’s Ranking
Political Empowerment
Educational Attainment
Economic Participation & Opportunity
Health & Survival

Why Gender Equity is important

Apart from the obvious moral and ethical considerations, gender equity is positively correlated with high performing economies. Although complete gender parity has not been achieved anywhere in the world, overall the Nordic countries performed the best on the Global Gender Gap Indices. Nordic economies are also those with the highest income.

While correlation does not prove causality, it is consistent with the theory and mounting evidence that empowering women means a more efficient use of a nation’s human capital endowment and that reducing gender inequality enhances productivity and economic growth.

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