No Country Is on Track to Achieve Gender Equality by 2030

Achieving gender equality may be an even more remote goal than previously imagined.

Not a single country in the world is on track to achieve gender equality by 2030, according to a newly launched index that measures progress against the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a set of goals agreed upon by all UN member states in 2015.

The SDG Gender Index, created by Equal Measures 2030, found that the global average score of the 129 countries indexed is 65.7 out of 100, or “poor” on the index’s scoring system.

“With just 11 years to go, our index finds that not a single one of the 129 countries is fully transforming their laws, policies or public budget decisions on the scale needed to reach gender equality by 2030. We are failing to deliver on the promises of gender equality for literally billions of girls and women,” said Alison Holder, director of Equal Measures 2030.

The Index measures gender equality as it pertains to 14 of the 17 SDGs, including issues ranging from health, gender-based violence, climate change, and more. But the data shows that nearly 40% of women and girls around the world, or 1.4 billion individuals, live in countries that are failing on the index’s measures of gender equality.

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said that this fact alone “should serve as a wakeup call to the world.”

Not a single country tops the charts across every measure, but the highest scoring country is Denmark, at 89.3. Rounding out the top five are Finland, Sweden, Norway, and the Netherlands. Just 8% of the world’s female population live in the 21 countries that received a “good” score of 80-89; no country exceeded 90.

The lowest scoring countries, on the other hand, are all fragile states: Niger, Yemen, Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Chad, with Chad scoring the lowest at 33.4. A total of 21 countries scored lower than 50, considered “very poor” by the Index.

But more resources does not necessarily lead to higher rates of equality. Colombia, for example, has better coverage of social assistance among its poorest people than the U.S.—81% as compared to 65%.

Realities such as this brought the U.S. down to a ranking of 28th, with an overall score of 77.6—lower than its neighbor to the north who ranked 8th, much of western Europe, Slovenia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and others.

Other factors that brought down the overall score of the U.S. include poor performance on indicators related to poverty, women’s participation in the economy, and inequality. More specifically, the U.S. scored the worst on SDG 13 climate action (48.7), SDG 10 reduced inequalities (66.58), and SDG 5 gender equality (72.29).

The U.S. scored highest, meanwhile, on SDG 6 clean water and sanitation (93.42) and SDG 7 affordable and clean energy (92.07).

The lowest scoring areas across the board were issues related to public finance and better gender data (SDG 17), climate change (SDG 13), gender equality in industry and innovation (SDG 9), and most concerning of all, gender equality (SDG 5)—most of which was reflected in the scores of the U.S. as well.

But it’s not all cause for concern. The Index, Gates notes, also shows that “progress is possible.” Limited resources are not a reason to fail women and girls: “when it comes to gender equality, governments shouldn’t have excuses for inaction,” she says.

Equal Measures 2030 is a partnership of civil society and the private sector, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the International Women’s Health Coalition, ONE Campaign, KPMG, FEMNET, and Plan International.

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