The World Economic Forum has revealed which countries have made progress with closing the gender gap – and that Japan is falling behind. Rose Dykins reports

A report from the World Economic Forum has assessed levels of gender parity in 146 countries around the world, with Japan falling nine places in the rankings from 2022-2023.

The Global Gender Gap Report 2023  is the longest-standing index tracking the progress of countries’ efforts towards closing the gender gap over time.

First launched in 2006, the report benchmarks the existing and evolving gender parity of each country based on four key metrics. These are economic participation and opportunity; educational attainment; health and survival and political empowerment.

The 2023 findings reveal that in Japan, women are less represented in politics than they are in Saudi Arabia or Kuwait. Japan was ranked 138th in the world in terms of political empowerment – ahead of only eight countries, including Myanmar, Iran and Afghanistan, and one place below Saudi Arabia.

Overall, Japan ranked 125th, nine places lower than 2022, prompting the nation’s leaders to take action. “We need to humbly accept our country’s current situation,” said Hirokazu Matsuno, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary told The Times. “The government as a whole will aggressively push forward efforts.”

The Global Gender Gap Report also found that in 2023, global gender parity has recovered to pre-Covid levels. but the succession of crises has slowed progress. Overall the global gender gap has closed by 0.3 percentage points compared to 2022.

“While there have been encouraging signs of recovery to pre-pandemic levels, women continue to bear the brunt of the current cost of living crisis and labour market disruptions,” said Saadia Zahidi, managing director of the World Economic Forum. “An economic rebound requires the full power of creativity and diverse ideas and skills. We cannot afford to lose momentum on women’s economic participation and opportunity.”

Iceland was ranked as the most gender-equal country in the world in 2023 for the 14th consecutive year. It is also the only country to have closed more than 90 per cent of its gender gap. No country has yet achieved full gender parity, but the top nine ranking countries have closed at least 80 per cent of their gender gap.

The top ten countries for gender equality

Another key finding for the 2023 edition of the report, it that Europe has overtaken North America in terms of gender parity since 2022. In fact, Europe has the highest gender parity of all world regions at 76.3 per cent. One third of countries in Europe rank in the top 20 and more than half (56 per cent) have reached at least 75 per cent parity.

Progress is mixed, though, with ten countries, led by Estonia, Norway and Slovenia, having made at least a 1 percentage point improvement, while another ten countries – including Austria, France and Bulgaria – registered declines of at least 1 percentage point.

North America has experienced a 1.9 percentage point decline since last year’s report. This is partially down to the 7.7 percentage point decline in the political empowerment gap, which now stands at 26.1 per cent At the same time, North America has achieved the highest gender parity score among all regions (77.6 per cent), in closing the economic participation and opportunity gap.

The Middle East and North Africa region remains the region furthest from achieving gender parity, with 62.6 per cent of the gender gap closed. The United Arab Emirates (71.2 per cent), Israel (70 per cent) and Bahrain (66.6 per cent) have achieved the highest parity in the region, while five countries, led by Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar, have increased their parity by 0.5 per cent or more.

The Global Gender Gap Report 2023 makes a clear economic case for global gender equality. “Making progress on closing the gender gap is crucial for ensuring inclusive, sustainable economic growth,” it says. “At an individual organisation level, gender strategy is seen as essential to attracting the best talent and ensuring long-term economic performance, resilience and survival.

“Evidence indicates that diverse groups of leaders make more fact-based decisions that result in higher-quality outcomes. At an economy-wide level, gender parity has been recognised as critical for financial stability and economic performance.”