KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 29 — Gender equality in Malaysia has slid further according to an annual World Economic Forum (WEF) ranking, placing 107th out of 142 nations surveyed and only ahead of largely Middle Eastern and African countries.
In the 2014 edition of WEF’s Global Gender Gap report, Malaysia also fell into the lowest 10 nations for political empowerment of women, which measures the number of female lawmakers, ministers and years the country has been without a female head of state.
Malaysia was also behind all its Asean neighbours save for Cambodia (108). At 9th, the Philippines was best placed in the region, followed by Singapore (59), Thailand (61), Vietnam (76), Indonesia (97), and Brunei (98).
This year’s decline in the report continues a slide that began in 2011, when Malaysia was ranked 98th out of 135 countries. Its best placing was 72nd when the report was started in 2006.
Despite the poorer overall ranking, the ninth edition of the report shows that the country scored exceptionally well for gender equality in education, with Malaysia ranked first in the subcategory of female enrolment in tertiary education. Malaysian women outnumbered men in universities by 1.2:1.
Malaysian women also scored well in terms of wage equality, coming in 5th in the ranking, with average salaries measured being within 80 per cent of their male counterparts.
Female healthy life expectancy is also higher in Malaysia, with women outliving men by 1.05:1 in terms of years.
However, the report points out that this is reflective of the global trend, where gender gap or inequality in health and education is fast closing globally, with economic being just about average, with women still having a long way to go in politics.
The best five countries in terms of gender equality according to the survey are all Scandinavian, with Iceland topping the list ahead of Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark.
Countries with the worst gender equality were Mali, war-torn Syria, Chad, Pakistan, and Yemen at 142.
In a press statement accompanying the survey, WEF said that it has observed only marginal improvements in workplace equality in the nine years since the survey began in 2006.
“The gender gap for economic participation and opportunity now stands at 60 per cent worldwide, having closed by 4 per cent from 56 per cent in 2006 when the Forum (WEF) 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,” said head of the Gender Parity Programme at WEF and lead author of the report, Saadia Zahidi,
She added that while the gender gap for economic participation and opportunity continue to lag, the gap for political empowerment has worsened, standing at just 21 per cent, although this area has seen the most improvement since 2006.
“In the case of politics, globally, there are now 26 per cent more female parliamentarians and 50 per cent 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,” Saadia said.
In the same statement, Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of WEF said that achieving gender equality is imminent for economic reasons for a country.
“Only those economies who have full access to all their talent will remain competitive and will prosper. But even more important, gender equality is a matter of justice,” Schwab added.