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Gender gap in emerging markets is more than an ESG special interest

  • Large gender gaps remain a human rights blight and an impediment to realising economic potential in many countries

  • The recently updated Gender Gap index from WEF provides a useful dataset, richer than labour participation data alone

  • Countries with the biggest positive change over the past decade in this index score may surprise some, eg Saudi Arabia

Gender gap in emerging markets is more than an ESG special interest
Hasnain Malik
Hasnain Malik

Strategy & Head of Equity Research

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Tellimer Research
6 August 2022
Published byTellimer Research

In September 1995, the Beijing Declaration was a resolution adopted by the UN to promote gender equality. The World Economic Forum estimates at the current rate the gap between the genders across a range of metrics will take over another century to close. There is clearly a very, very long way to go in order to achieve parity.

Human rights aside, the economic benefits of higher female labour force participation, in terms of greater overall output, productivity, and consumption, are clear and argued for by a large body of academic literature.

In 2015, the OECD estimated that halving the gender gap, over 15 years, in labour force participation alone could add 6% to GDP in its member countries. In 2018, the IMF estimated that equalising labour force participation across gender could add in the range of 60% to GDP in countries like Egypt, India, and Pakistan.

Following the latest update to the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap index, we scan the data in emerging markets. The Gender Gap measures the gap between female and male performance across a range of metrics: economic participation (eg labour force participation, wage equality), education (eg literacy, enrollment), health (eg life expectancy), political empowerment (eg years under a female head of state). The charts below should be of interest to all EM investors, not merely the ESG subset.

2022 snapshot

The latest index scores exhibit substantial variation within each region, in terms of which countries are closer to gender parity, with the greater variation within Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and less variation within emerging Europe (excluding Iceland) and LatAm. Examples include the following.

  • Developed: US and developed Europe more than Japan

  • Large EM: Brazil, China, South Korea and South Africa more than India

  • Asia: Bangladesh, the Philippines and Vietnam more than Pakistan

  • Africa: Kenya and Tanzania more than Egypt and Morocco

  • Europe: Georgia and Kazakhstan more than Turkey

  • LatAm: Argentina and Mexico more than Colombia.

Gender gap index in developed and emerging markets

2012 to 2022 change

Over the past decade to following countries have seen the most significant change in their Gender Gap scores.

  • Gainers: eg Chile, Georgia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Zimbabwe

  • Losers: eg India, Iran, Qatar and Sri Lanka

Gender Gap index change over the last decade