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International Women’s Day (IWD) takes place on 8 March annually. For 2020, ‘#EachforEqual’ is IWD’s chosen theme. Its aim is to create a gender equal world. The United Nations (UN) theme is ‘I am Generation Equality: Realising Women’s Rights’.

This briefing discusses global gender inequality. It has been prepared in advance of the debate due to take place in the House of Lords on 10 March 2020 on the motion moved by Baroness Berridge, Minister for Women, to mark International Women’s Day.

The briefing’s key findings are:

  • Average gender parity: The World Economic Forum (WEF) has found that average gender parity of all areas has increased since 2019 and now stands at 68.6%. A further 99.5 years would be needed to close the gap, if trends continued.
  • Political empowerment: Globally, women hold 25% of parliamentary seats and 21% of ministerial posts. Rwanda has more women than men in both its lower house of parliament (61% women) and its cabinet (52% women). In Europe, Sweden’s parliament has 47.3% women MPs. Over half of Sweden’s government ministers are women. In the UK Parliament, just over a third of MPs (34%) are women. Women hold 38 out of 114 UK ministerial posts (33%) and 6 out of 22 cabinet positions (27%).
  • Economic participation: the WEF found that the number of women in senior roles had increased in 2019. However, women’s participation in the labour market was “stalling”. Additionally, over 40% of the wage gap and over 50% of the income gap was still to be bridged. In the UK, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found the gender pay gap among all employees has decreased from 17.8% in 2018 to 17.3% in 2019. The gender pay gap remains higher for all employees (17.3%) than for each of full-time (8.9%) and part-time employees (‑3.1%). The ONS attributes this to the number of women working part time. In addition, the ONS reports that from October to December 2019, the estimated employment rate for women was 72.4%, in comparison to 80.6% of men.
  • Educational attainment: The WEF found that 96.1% of the gap in educational attainment across the world had been closed. In 35 countries gender parity had been achieved. In the UK, enrolment in primary and secondary education was about equal for both genders. Slightly more women (57%) enrol in higher education than men (43%).
  • Health and survival: The WEF found 95.7% of the global gender gap has closed, though no country is yet to reach full parity. 48 countries have achieved near-parity, with the next 71 countries having closed at least 97% of the gap. The UK’s global ranking for health and survival for 2019 was 112th in the world, falling from 63rd in 2018. The UK is 0.03% from achieving full parity in the health and survival sub index. Women in the UK have a higher life expectancy than men.

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