A report by the World Economic Forum (WEF) has ranked the Maldives 99th out of 134 countries for gender disparity, narrowly beating Azerbaijan.
The Global Gender Gap Index examines the gap between men and women in four fundamental categories: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment.
Of the Maldives’ neighbours, Sri Lanka ranked 16th, Bangladesh 82nd, and India 112th.
Scandanavian countries Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden led the index, while Pakistan, Chad and Yemen were ranked last.
The Maldives ranking has changed little in three years, and scores fairly well for health and educational attainment in comparison with the region.
However data in the WEF’s report identifies a significant under-representation of women in business (to the point of negligible at a decision-making level) and politics, especially parliament and ministerial positions.
Moreover, men earn almost twice as much as women for the same level work, at a per capita income level, with an average annual wage of US$3,597 compared to US$6,714 for men.
Labour force participation for women is at 59 percent, compared to 79 percent for men.
The mean age of marriage for women in the Maldives is 23, the report found. It also noted that contraceptive prevalence among married women was 39 percent.
“The Global Gender Gap Report demonstrates that closing the gender gap provides a basis for a prosperous and competitive society,” observed the WEF report’s authors, Laura Tyson, and Angela Chan Professor of Global Management at the Haas School of Business, University of California.
“Regardless of level of income, countries can choose to integrate gender equality and other social inclusion goals into their growth agenda – and have the potential to grow faster – or they can run the risk of undermining their competitive potential by not capitalising fully on one-half of their human resources,” the authours noted.
“The economic incentive for closing the gender gap in health, education, economic opportunity and political power is clear.”