The World economic Forum (WEF) said on Tuesday that Kuwait is the highest-placed country in the Middle East and North Africa after making significant improvement in overall income, including those for women.
"The United Arab Emirates falls in the rankings but shows major improvement relative to its past performance on economic and political participation and remains the second highest-ranked country in the region", said WEF in its global gender gap report of 2014.
Sub-Saharan Africa, meanwhile, boasts three countries in the top 20 of the index. The highest placed, Rwanda, scores highly in terms of economic and political participation and is the highest-ranked developing country in the index. Next is Burundi, which climbs five places to 17th, followed by South Africa. Nigeria, the region's largest economy, falls 12 places to 118th, said the report which is based on nine years of data.
"Much of the progress on gender equality over the last 10 years has come from more women entering politics and the workforce. While more women and more men have joined the workforce over the last decade, more women than men entered the labour force in 49 countries. In politics, there are now 26 percent more female parliamentarians and 50 percent more female ministers than nine years ago. These are far-reaching changes - for economies and national cultures, however it is clear that much work still remains to be done, and that the pace of change must in some areas be accelerated, "said Saadia Zahidi, Head of the Gender Parity Programme at the World Economic Forum and lead author of the report.
Progress has not been even across the four pillars of economy, politics, health and education.
The Global Gender Gap Index ranks 142 countries on the gap between women and men on health, education, economic and political indicators. It aims to understand whether countries are distributing their resources and opportunities equitably between women and men, irrespective of their overall income levels. The report measures the size of the gender inequality gap in four areas: Economic participation and opportunity - salaries, participation and leadership; Education - access to basic and higher levels of education; Political empowerment - representation in decision-making structures a dn Health and survival - life expectancy and sex ratio.
With no country having closed its overall gender gap, Nordic nations remain the most gender-equal societies in the world. Last year's leading four nations - Iceland (1), Finland (2), Norway (3) and Sweden (4) - are joined by Denmark, which climbs from eighth place to fifth. Elsewhere in the top 10 there is considerable movement, with Nicaragua climbing four places to sixth, Rwanda entering the index for the first time at seventh, Ireland falling to eighth, the Philippines declining four places to ninth and Belgium climbing one place to tenth.
Further up the index, the United States climbs three places to 20 in 2014, after narrowing its wage gap and improving the number of women in parliamentary and ministerial level positions.
Among the BRICS grouping, the highest-placed nation is South Africa (18), supported by strong scores on political participation. Brazil is next at 71, followed by Russia (75), China (87) and India (114).
In Europe, Germany climbs two places to 12th, France leaps from 45th to 16th, while the UK falls eight places to 26th. France's gain is mostly due to increases in the number of women in politics, including 49 per cent women ministers - one of the highest ratios in the world, and narrowing wage gaps. The UK's lower position can be mainly attributed to changes in income estimates.
In Asia and the Pacific, the Philippines remains the region's highest-ranked country, followed by New Zealand (13) and Australia (24). These nations are regional outliers, however, as only one other nation, Mongolia (42), places in the top 50. Singapore, the People's Democratic Republic of Laos and Thailand come next in 59th, 60th and 61st place, respectively. Japan climbs one place to 104th; China falls 18 places to 87th, largely due to its very low sex ratio at birth; and India slumps to 114th, making it the lowest-ranked BRICS nation and one of the few countries where female labour force participation is shrinking.
In Latin America and the Caribbean, Nicaragua reinforces it position as gender parity leader at sixth place due to strong performance in health, education and political gaps. It is one of 10 countries from the region that make the top 50 this year.
The gender gap for economic participation and opportunity now stands at 60 percent worldwide, having closed by 4 percent from 56 percent in 2006 when the Forum first started measuring it.
Based on this trajectory, with all else remaining equal, it will take 81 years for the world to close this gap completely.