Philippines drops 8 places in gender equality, remains top in Asia

The Philippines remains the top country in Asia in terms of closing the gender gap, according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020 of the World Economic Forum.

The report shows that the Philippines has closed 78% of its overall gender gap, garnering a score of 0.781 (down by 1.8 percentage points from .799 in 2019). With this, it ranked 16th out of 153 countries with the narrowest gap between men and women, dropping by 8 notches from its place last year.

Notably, it remains as the sole Asian country that made it to the top twenty tier; followed by Lao People’s Democratic Republic which ranked 43rd.

The Global Gender Gap Report 2020 measured countries on their progress towards gender parity in four dimensions: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment.

Dip attributable to lower political empowerment

The 2020 report shows that the Philippines remained strong in three of these four dimensions.

“It has closed 80% of the Economic Participation and Opportunity gender gap, with women outnumbering men in senior and leadership roles, as well as in professional and technical professions. It is only one of four countries to achieve this feat. The country ranks 5th on the indicator assessing gender wage equality, with a score of 81.2,” the report noted.

The report further indicated that the country has closed the gender gaps in educational attainment and health and survival. Female life expectancy is five years longer than male, while the literacy rate is above 98% for both sexes. A larger percentage of women and girls are enrolled in tertiary and secondary education.
The dip in the country’s ranking is traced to the Political Empowerment gap which has widened considerably over the past two years. From 41.6% in 2019, the political empowerment score is down by 6.3 percentage points to 35.3 in 2020.

According to the report, the downgrade is due to the lower female representation in the cabinet, which declined from 25% to 10% between 2017 to 2019. Female representation in Congress also fell slightly, at 28% at the beginning of 2019.

Meanwhile, Spain, which leaped from the 29th to the 8th spot, achieved substantial improvement in this dimension. Its 52.7% score (17.3 percentage points increase) is attributed to the 64.7% representation of women among ministers and an almost 50-50 gender balance in the parliament (47.4% female and 52.6% male).

PCW Chairperson Dr. Rhodora Bucoy takes this as a challenge to further strengthen the drive for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

“The Philippines’ ranking may have dropped but this will not discourage but rather motivate us even more to work on breaking gender-based stereotypes and misogyny so that women are given equal opportunities with men,” Bucoy said.

“We will reinforce our partnerships with different national government agencies to ensure that educational, health, and economic services are provided to women. We will continue to work for the increased participation and representation of women in government seats, political parties, development councils and planning bodies, as provided in the Magna Carta of Women (Republic Act 9710),” she added.

Gender Parity in 99 years?

The report forecasts that gender parity shall not be attained for 99.5 years, and so “none of us will see gender parity in our lifetimes, and nor likely will many of our children.”

“Overall, the pursuit of gender parity has improved, ducking back under a century and registering a marked improvement on the 108 years in the 2018 index,” the report shows.

Educational attainment, as well as health and survival,  has moved closer to parity (96.1% and 95.7% respectively), but economic participation and opportunity trails behind. Figures show that it shall take a massive 257 years before gender equality in this aspect can be achieved.

The report highlights three primary reasons for this: women have greater representation in roles that are being automated; not enough women are entering professions where wage growth is the most pronounced (most obviously, but not exclusively, technology), and women face the perennial problem of insufficient care infrastructure and access to capital.

The top country for gender parity remained Iceland. Countries that improved their rankings include Albania, Ethiopia, Mali, Mexico and Spain, which has levelled up by 21 spots.

The World Economic Forum has established the Global Gender Gap Report in 2006, aiming to create global awareness of the challenges that gender gaps pose. It is anchored on the truism that, without gender parity, economies and societies will not thrive.