Worldwide Gender Gap Widens for the First Time in 10 Years

"A decade of slow but steady progress on improving parity between the sexes came to a halt in 2017, with the global gender gap widening for the first time since the WEF's Global Gender Gap Report was first published in 2006", the report said.

In its latest annual global gender gap report, the forum assessed 144 countries based on differences between men and women in terms of economic participation in the workforce, education, health and political empowerment. This retreat backwards means that, at the current rate of progress, the global gender gap would take 100 years to disappear entirely, compared to 83 last year. The picture is even more bleak for women in politics, where we are only 12% of the way to political equality (thanks to women's paltry representation in Congress and President Trump's cabinet).

Although number one in the Gulf and within the top three of the Middle East and African region, the UAE is ranked 120th overall.

Reflecting on the global widening gap, Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the historic United Kingdom gender equality and women's rights charity The Fawcett Society, told The National: "This research confirms that progress on closing the gender pay gap has stalled and it has been that way for some time".

The gender gap in education could be closed within the next 13 years, says WEF. Overall, the gap between men and women stands at 32 percent in 2017, up from 31.7 percent past year.

The lowest-ranked countries were Syria, Chad and Yemen.

However, gender equality does appear to promote better economic performance, according to numerous studies.

Nicaragua, Slovenia, Ireland, New Zealand and the Philippines also made the top 10 on the Global Gender Gap rankings.

Throughout the world, women's participation in politics stubbornly lagged that of men, with women still accounting for just 23 per cent of the world's decision makers, according to the report.

The report shows women in the world earn less not just because of gendered salary differences, but because women are more likely to do unpaid or part-time work than men.

Both Canada and France saw improvements to their political empowerment measures after Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron added more women in ministerial positions within their governments.

Other countries that improved overall included Bangladesh, which now ranks 47th in the world and the highest in South Asia after increasing female employment in professions.

The US dropped its ranking by four points to 49th position on the index, while China moved down one place to 100th.

Juanita Elias, who researches women's role in the global economy at the University of Warwick, says this can make it seem as though women in certain countries are doing better than they really are.