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NZ near top of world for closing gender gap

Human Rights Commission
Media release
14 November 2008

NZ near top of world for closing gender gap

New Zealand has maintained fifth place in the Global Gender Gap Report 2008, while Australia has dropped four places to 21st.

“For New Zealand to hang on to its high ranking out of 130 countries behind Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland is remarkable and we must ensure that women are not disproportionately affected by job loss and redundancies in the economic downturn,” said Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner Dr Judy McGregor.

New Zealand must try to maintain the gains it has made for women in economic participation even when business is struggling with the current economic downturn, she said.

The annual Global Gender Gap report, produced by the World Economic Forum, measures the gap between men and women in economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment and health and survival. The report shows that New Zealand closes 78.59 per cent of equality gaps between men and women, while the Nordic countries close more than 80 per cent. The lowest ranking country, Yemen, closed a little over 45 per cent of its gender gap in 2008.

New Zealand has closed the entire gap in educational attainment which measures the literacy rate and enrolment of males and females in primary, secondary and tertiary education. It has closed over 97 per cent of the gap in health and survival measured by sex ratio at birth and healthy life expectancy. It has improved from 58 per cent of the gap, closing to more than 77 per cent in economic participation and opportunity which is measured by labour force participation; wage equality for similar work; income levels and numbers of managers, professional and technical workers and law and policy makers.

New Zealand has also improved from closing around 16 per cent of the gap between men and women in political empowerment to closing over 39 per cent through increased numbers of women in Parliament and ministerial positions and having a female head of state. The report was compiled before the elections.

“The gap report is important because it measures outcomes rather than inputs and we can track progress over time. For example, New Zealand was 7th in the first report and has made significant progress up the ladder in the past three years. Australia was 17th last year but has fallen to 21st and the United Kingdom was 11th but has slipped to 13th. The United States has improved from 31st to 27th, Dr McGregor said.

The report provides some evidence of the link between the gender gap and economic performance. Its authors, from the forum and from Harvard and Berkeley universities in the United States, said they wanted to highlight the economic incentive behind women’s involvement as well as promote equality as a basic human right.


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