China’s marginal progress toward complete gender equality is being outpaced by other countries, according to a recent report from the World Economic Forum.
The Global Gender Gap Report 2020, published Tuesday, ranked China 106th out of 153 countries surveyed this year, down three spots from last year’s ranking of 103rd among 149 countries. China’s ranking has dropped steadily since 2008, when it was ranked 57th.
Since its first release in 2006, the Global Gender Gap Report has examined four categories, or subindexes — educational attainment, political empowerment, health and survival, and economic participation and opportunity — and given countries a score in each. Globally, Iceland held onto its crown of most gender-equal country this year, followed by Norway, Finland, and Sweden. The United States ranked 70th, while New Zealand and the Philippines were the most gender-equal countries in the “East Asia and the Pacific” region at 6th and 16th, respectively.
The report noted that while gender parity has already been achieved in 40 out of 153 countries evaluated, it won’t be achieved globally for another 99.5 years.
This year, China scored 0.676 out of 1, or slightly closer to a full score than last year, with a gain of 0.003 points. But since the report was first published, China has narrowed the gap by just 0.02 points. The three-spot drop in the country’s most recent ranking is partly due to the fact that other countries are closing the gap more quickly, the report said. The subindex scores also suggest that while China’s gender gap is closing slightly in the categories of political empowerment, educational attainment, and economic participation and opportunity, it’s getting worse in the health and survival category.
Hundreds of millions of women in China still face major barriers to economic and political advancement, and globally, political landscapes remain dominated by men. China ranks 95th in the political subindex thanks to women holding only two cabinet-level positions and accounting for only around a quarter of the National People’s Congress, the country’s highest legislative body. In the economic participation sector, meanwhile, China ranked 91st out of 153 countries due to a lack of representation at the top of the corporate ladder.
China scored highest in educational attainment, where it is 97.3% gender-equal. However, it still ranked 100th in the category, as dozens of other countries performed slightly better. The report mentions that more women than men participate in tertiary education in China, according to what little official data is available.
Of the four subindexes, China’s performance in health and survival is of greatest concern. It ranks last among all countries surveyed, with its newborn sex ratio of 885 girls for every 1,000 boys weighing heavily on its section score. The skewed ratio is partly due to a traditional preference for males that can, in extreme cases, manifest as infanticide or sex-selective abortions.
To mitigate the imbalance, several government departments jointly implemented the “two forbids” policy in 2011, banning neonatal sex determination for nonmedical reasons and forbidding abortions based on gender preference.
The two-child policy, which went into effect in January 2016, is also expected to make the newborn sex ratio more even by raising the likelihood of couples having at least one boy. But illegal sex testing is still practiced across the country because of lingering demand, and statistics from China’s last census show that the newborn sex ratio is even more skewed in families that have three or four children, as they’re often determined to keep trying for a son.
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: Tuchong)