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Gender equality: what do the data show in 2016?

Eliana Rubiano-Matulevich's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français

This is part of a series of blogs focused on the Sustainable Development Goals and data from the 2016 Edition of World Development Indicators.

Disparities between men and women are fewer + smaller than 20 years ago, but critical gaps remain

We have seen significant progress in closing gender gaps over the last two decades, especially in education and health. Most countries have reduced disparities between girls and boys in enrollment and completion of primary school, and in transition to secondary school.  And both women and men are living longer and healthier lives. But critical gaps persist: Women have limited access to economic opportunities, and their ability to make decisions about their lives and act on them—their agency —is restricted in many ways.

Hurdles to gender equality

These gaps are related to entrenched social norms and biases that constrain women and girls and prevent them from fulfilling their potential. In many economies, women face legal provisions that restrict their capacity to access opportunities—these include requirements that they obtain a husband’s permission or produce additional documentation to open a bank account in their own name. Persistent gender-based violence is pervasive and reflects the imbalance of power relations in the household and society more generally. Women’s responsibility for family care and household chores, which is necessary for social reproduction, restricts the time they can spend on paid work and disadvantages men.

Sustainable Development Goal 5 seeks to “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls,” and represents an opportunity to tackle structural constraints and shift social norms, which would potentially enable permanent pathways out of poverty and achieve the gender equality targets of the 2030 agenda.

Shifting entrenched norms isn’t easy. A key step in this process is to create an enabling environment by changing legal frameworks. Countries have taken important steps in enacting laws to protect women from harmful practices: In 2016, 137 countries have laws on domestic violence and 149 countries prohibit or void child marriage. On the other hand, many economies still have legal differences affecting women’s economic opportunities. Almost 60 percent of the 188 countries for which data are available lack legal frameworks that mandate equal opportunities in hiring practices, equal pay for equal work, or allow women to perform the same jobs as men.

How do Causes of Death Vary Between Men and Women?

Dereje Ketema Wolde's picture
Also available in: Español | العربية

This is part of a series of blogs focused on the Sustainable Development Goals and data from the 2016 Edition of World Development Indicators.

Source: World Development Indicators and World Health Organization (WHO) Global Health Estimates Note: Causes of death by communicable diseases and maternal, prenatal and nutrition conditions are grouped together by WHO.

As Emi Suzuki wrote last week, the causes and patterns of death rich and poor countires vary and they're changing.  But what about the gender dimension? 

Women can expect to live longer than men in almost every country of the world. Globally, women's life expectancy remains about 3 years longer than men's, and you see the data for different countries in the interactive chart below:

Chart: Women More Often Work Unpaid in Family Firms

Tariq Khokhar's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | 中文 | Español

Globally 55% of women participate in the labor force vs. 82% of men. In many countries, women are also more likely than men to be working without pay in family-owned business such as shops and farms. Read more in the World Bank's Gender Data Portal.

What exactly does “fewer women participate in the labor force” mean?

Masako Hiraga's picture
Also available in: 中文

This year’s Gates Annual Letter focussed on energy and time. Bill Gates argued that cheap, clean sources of energy are fundamental to the future of human development, and Melinda Gates shone a light on how women spend their time, and how it’s spent and compensated differently than men’s. The letter is an excellent example of communicating complex issues clearly and in an engaging manner and we encourage everyone to read it.

While the topic is on people’s minds, we wanted to take the opportunity to clarify one of the charts they included based on “Labor force participation rates” data from our Gender Statistics Database.  
What the data show is that worldwide, in 2014, 55% of women participated in the labor force vs 82% of men. In every geographic region, the share of women in the labor force is lower. As the Gates letter notes, this can be attributed to cultural norms - responsibilities for cooking, cleaning and childcare disproportionately fall on women and keep them out of the labor force.

The labor force participation rate includes the unemployed and people working without pay

You can think of a “labor force” as the total pool of working-age people able to work in an economy. The labour force participation rate measures the proportion of a country’s working-age population that’s either working or looking for work.  What’s interesting about this statistic is that it includes unemployed people, and people who are working in both paid and unpaid jobs.

Chart: Women Earn More in Male-Dominated Jobs

Tariq Khokhar's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | 中文 | Español

A recent study in Uganda found that women in female-dominated sectors earned less than half what men did in male-dominated sectors. But women who "crossed over" to male-dominated sectors such as metalwork and carpentry earned almost as much as men. Read more about "Breaking The Gender Earnings Gap" 

Where do women most lag men in access to financial institutions?

Masako Hiraga's picture

Where do women most lag men in access to financial institutions?


Globally, an average of 65% of men and 58% of women over the age of 15 have an account at a financial institution. However, beneath this 7 percentage point global difference, there are many countries where the gender gaps are much wider. Find our more in the Gender Data Portal and the Global Findex data portal.


Four charts on gender gaps we still need to close

Tariq Khokhar's picture
Also available in: 中文 | العربية | Français | Español | 日本語

The World Bank Group has just launched a new gender data portal that brings together sex-disaggregated and gender-relevant data on topics ranging from education, demographics, and health to jobs, asset ownership, and political participation. We’ve also just released the Little Data Book on Gender 2016 along with online tables that are linked to the latest data available in the World Development Indicators

Gender data are one of the most visited parts of our data site, and these new resources make it easier than ever to see our data’s gender dimensions. The country and topic dashboards give an overview of the distribution and trends in data across important themes, and the online tables and book are a useful reference for the most commonly accessed data. 

Below I’ve picked a few charts from the new portal related to the four pillars of the Bank Group’s new gender equality strategy. These aims focus on improving human endowments, through better access to health, education, and social protection; opening up more and better jobs by tackling issues such as skills gaps and care arrangements; expanding women’s access to and control over assets;  and enhancing women’s voice and agency, meaning their ability to make themselves heard and exert control over key aspects of their own lives.

Where are there laws against domestic violence?

Tariq Khokhar's picture
Also available in: Français | 中文 | Español | العربية

Globally, the most common form of violence women experience is from an intimate partner. A recent report found that 127 out of 173 economies studied had laws on domestic violence, and in 72% of economies, protection orders can be used to limit an abuser's behavior. Read more.


MDG3: Large differences in gender equality between and within countries

Masako Hiraga's picture
Also available in: Español | Français | العربية | 中文

This is the third in a series of posts on data related the Millennium Development Goals based on the 2015 Edition of World Development Indicators.

Millennium Development Goal 3  is to "Promote gender equality and empower women" and is measured against a target to "Eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005, and in all levels of education no later than 2015" and also includes indicators to measure the proportion of seats held by women in national parliament and the share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector.

Since 1990, the number of women in parliament has quadrupled in the Middle East and North Africa

Chart 1

More women are participating in public life and decision making at the highest levels than in 1990, based on the proportion of parliamentary seats held by women. Latin America and the Caribbean leads developing country regions in 2014, at 29 percent, followed closely by Sub-Saharan Africa at 22 percent. The biggest change has occurred in the Middle East and North Africa, where the proportion of seats held by women more than quadrupled between 1990 and 2014 . At the country level Rwanda leads the way with 64 percent in 2014, higher than the percentage for high- income countries, at 26 percent.