The global index has shifted “into reverse” for the first time since it started in 2006, with the gap increasing from 31.7% to 32%.

The World Economic Forum recently released its annual Gender Gap Report, and things don’t seem to be improving on a global scale, let alone the MENA region.

According to the report, the most challenging gender gaps remain in the economic and health spheres.

“Given the continued widening of the economic gender gap, it will now not be closed for another 217 years. However, the education-specific gender gap could be reduced to parity within the next 13 years,” it said.

The political dimension currently holds the widest gender gap and is also the one exhibiting the most progress, despite a slowdown in progress this year. It could be closed within 99 years.

While all world regions record a narrower gender gap than they did 11 years ago, more efforts will continue to be needed to accelerate progress.

At the current rate of progress, the overall gender gap can be closed in 157 years in the Middle East and North Africa, compared to 61 years in the West.

The GCC

The GCC countries saw mixed progress in the report, with progress from the UAE and Bahrain but declining performance elsewhere.

Among the top performers in the region were the UAE and Bahrain, which closed between 65% and 63% of their overall gender gaps.

The UAE held the highest ranking in the GCC, climbing from 124th to 120th, after seeing notable improvement on gender parity in ministerial positions and wage equality for similar work. It also came close to fully closing its gender gap on the educational attainment subindex.

Bahrain followed after climbing from 131st to 126th with a sizeable increase in gender parity in estimated earned income.

Kuwait fell from 128th to 129th after notable improvements in gender parity in professional and technical workers as well as healthy life expectancy but a decline in wage equality for similar work and women’s share of estimated earned income.

Qatar fell from leading the Gulf in 119th to 130th after positive achievements in educational attainment, healthy life expectancy and the number of women in legislator, senior official, manager, technical and professional roles were outweighed by a decline in wage equality for similar work and estimated earned income indicator.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia climbed from 141st to 138th after re-closing its gender gap in enrolment in primary education and seeing some progress in gender parity for professional and technical workers.

The kingdom also saw a modest decline in wage equality for similar work and women’s share of estimated earned income but was recognised for the region’s largest improvement on the overall index over the last decade and the second largest relative improvement globally on the economic participation and opportunity subindex.

Oman appeared to be absent from this year’s ranking after standing in 133rd last year.

To be included in the report, a country must have data available for a minimum of 12 indicators out of the 14 that make up the index.

Globally, the bottom three was identical to last year with Yemen, Pakistan and Syria in 144th, 143rd, and 142nd respectively.

There was some movement in the top three though with Iceland maintaining its position in first but Norway overtaking Finland in second.

Rwanda also overtook Sweden to claim fourth and Nicaragua entered the top 10 in sixth.

Slovenia, Ireland, New Zealand and the Philippines completed the top 10.