UK scores low on gender equality

ASIRI's new Gender Equality Index ranks 29 developed countries on policy and women's empowerment

The UK is near the bottom of the pile when it comes to gender equality, a new index has shown.

Aberdeen Standard Investments Research Institute (ASIRI)’s Gender Equality Index ranks and scores 29 developed countries out of 100 across a range of economic, policy and ‘empowerment’ factors, including policies, and political and business opportunities for women, in an attempt to aid investment decisions.

To measure policies, ASIRI looked at maternity and paternity leave, the tax burden on parents, both single and married, employment protection and childcare costs for both single and married parents. For empowerment factors, it assessed women’s involvement and representation in politics, access to state jobs and business opportunities, plus the protection in place for pay and work equality.

The UK is ranked 23 out of 29, below the Slovak Republic, Greece, Portugal, Ireland and many others. It scores low on women’s ‘empowerment’ due to a lack of state jobs, political representation and business opportunities in the country.

Topping the list is Sweden, and after the Nordic countries Germany and Estonia score well across all factors. In last place is Japan, which scores low on empowerment factors, despite progressive parental leave policies.

Below the UK is the US, in 27th place, where the lack of maternity and paternity leave, expensive childcare and a large tax burden on parents hampers opportunities in the workplace. Sex discrimination and equal pay laws are also lagging in the US compared with most of the developed world, the index found.

ASIRI said improving gender equality can be achieved by giving men paternity leave, reforming the tax wedge on second earners and sole parents, considering the quality not just quantity of women’s work – so flexible working doesn’t lead to a lack of career progression – and having more data on equality.

Stephanie Kelly, deputy head of ASIRI, said: “The aim is to identify the economies likely to benefit from greater gender equality, because they will have better economic outcomes and could offer better investment opportunities.

“This is our first year of creating the index, so it will be really interesting to see how countries improve or if the pandemic, for example, sets gender equality back.”

She added: “The very specific measures we have used make it easy for investors to see what can be improved and where. This will also make it easy to track improvements, or steps backward in subsequent years.”


Natasha Turner

Natasha is global editor at ESG Clarity, part of Mark Allen Financial, and has been a financial journalist for seven years. She has been shortlisted for Story of the Year and Investment Journalist of the...