Close-up of a person's hand in the street, showing a piece of paper with a symbol for gender equality drawn on it.
Image: © nito/

We may not see global gender pay equality until the year 2276

19 Dec 2019

According to a new report from the World Economic Forum, we likely won’t see gender pay equality in our lifetime and neither will our children.

A new report published by the World Economic Forum (WEF) suggests that gender pay equality in the workplace could still be 257 years away. That’s an increase on last year’s estimation, which predicted it would be 202 years.

Although the gap is reportedly narrowing in such areas as health and education, global workplace economic inequality is predicted to stick around until the year 2276. That means, according to the WEF, that “a woman would have to be born in the year 2255 to get equal pay at work”.

Future Human

The WEF’s report is an annual publication researching the gaps between the sexes in more than 150 countries across education, health, economic opportunity and political empowerment. Though some countries have climbed the rankings and there have been reported improvements in some areas, the organisation stated that global pay parity “will take more than a lifetime to achieve”.

Areas where the gap is narrowing

Overall, the WEF said that gender parity will not be achieved for another 100 years, but taking a deeper look at specific sectors is more promising. In education, the report said that the gender gap was more than 96pc closed – leaving a relatively small area of ground that could potentially be covered in just 12 years. The gap in the health sector was revealed to be narrowing, too.

But the least amount of progress has been made in politics, although there have been significant improvements in the past year, according to the WEF. The report claimed that in 2019, women held one-quarter of parliamentary lower-house seats and 22pc of ministerial positions, compared to 24pc and 19pc in 2018.

Workplace issues

However, the workplace gave the WEF the most cause for concern. It looked at work-related factors such as promotion opportunities and salary and – though positive developments such as increases in the general share of women among skilled workers and senior officials were recognised – it concluded that real monetary equality won’t exist in workplaces around the world for another couple of centuries.

The leading cause outlined in the report was “stagnating or reversing gaps in labour market participation and monetary rewards”. For example, it said that only 55pc of adult women on average are in the labour market today, compared with 78pc of adult men. And, on average, women around the world make 40pc less than men.

Speaking about disparities between men and women, the WEF said: “Worldwide, the average woman’s annual income is $11,500, versus $21,500 for a man.

“To make matters worse, in many countries a lack of access to capital, land or financial products prevent women from making a living.”

Differences around the world

Given the number of countries analysed by the WEF, diverse levels of progression became apparent through the study. In Western European countries, for example, it predicted that gender gaps could potentially be closed in a little more than 54 years, while in Middle Eastern and North African countries the average time predicted was 140 years.

Scandinavian countries proved to be the top places for gender equality – men and women are most equal in Iceland, followed by Norway, Finland and Sweden.

Ireland rose two places this year in terms of gender equality and is now ranked seventh worldwide. The widest gender gaps uncovered by the WEF were in Syria, Pakistan, Iraq and Yemen.

A chart showing the top 10 countries for gender parity in the workplace.

The Global Gender Gap Index Ranking, 2020. Image: World Economic Forum

Shaping the future

The report also revealed that the greatest obstacle preventing the economic gender gap from closing is a lack of women representation in emerging roles. In cloud computing, for example, just 12pc of professionals are women. Low levels of women were also seen in engineering (15pc) and data and AI (26pc).

The WEF commented: “To address these deficiencies, workforce strategies must ensure that women are better equipped (in terms of improved skills or reskilling) to deal with the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“Diverse hiring is another area for improvement (reflecting the current situation that sees gender parity in an in-demand skillset but not equal representation), along with creating inclusive work cultures.”

Lisa Ardill
By Lisa Ardill

Lisa Ardill joined Silicon Republic as senior careers reporter in July 2019. She has a BA in neuroscience and a master’s degree in science communication. She is also a semi-published poet and a big fan of doggos. Lisa briefly served as Careers Editor at Silicon Republic before leaving the company in June 2021.

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