Even among the index’s top performers, which are dominated by Nordic nations, not one is set meet the gender targets in 14 of the 17 United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The SDGs, which 193 countries signed up to in 2015, create a global road map to eradicate poverty and protect the planet, with a 2030 deadline.
But “with just 11 years to go, our index finds that not a single one of the 129 countries is fully transforming their laws, policies or public budget decisions on the scale needed to reach gender equality by 2030,” Alison Holder, Director of Equal Measures 2030, which is civil society and private-sector led partnership, said in a statement.
A report, which was released alongside the index, also found that 2.8 billion women and girls are living in countries that are failing to do enough to help their lives.
“This report should serve as a wake-up call to the world. We won’t meet the SDGs with 40% of girls and women living in countries that are failing on gender equality,” Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said in a statement.
The index ranked 129 countries out of a scoring system from 0 to 100 – the point at which gender equality in relation to the underlying indicators has been achieved. Countries above 90 are making “excellent” progress, while those under 50 are considered to be making “very poor” progress.
The global average score was 65.7, however, a figure considered “poor,” according to a press release from Equal Measures 2030.
While no country achieved 90 or above, the report attributes strong public services and social safety nets as the reasons Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Germany, Canada, Ireland and Australia make up the top 10.
Only 21 countries got a mark above 80, including Japan, the United Kingdom and Canada.
“It’s clear that even the most gender-equal countries need to improve on issues like climate change, gender budgeting and public services, equal representation in powerful positions, gender pay gaps, and gender-based violence,” Holder said.
The United States received a score of 77.6 – a figure that was driven down by its poor performance over issues such as poverty and women’s economic participation, the report said.
The report said fragility and conflict were behind Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen, Niger and Mauritania coming in as the worst performers. To remedy the issue, the report called for the international community to provide investment and support to conflict-affected countries.
Regionally, Europe and North America topped the index while the bottom was dominated by African countries.
But the index also showed countries with fewer resources being able to tackle key gender inequalities better than richer nations. Senegal has a higher percentage of women in parliament (42%) than Denmark, which is at 37%, even though the Scandinavian country’s GDP per capita is “56 times higher,” the statement said.
And Kenya, for example, has a higher rate of women using digital banking than three-quarters of the world’s countries. Colombia, meanwhile, provides better social assistance coverage to its poorest people than the US, the statement added.
But in order for countries to reach what the report calls the “last mile” of gender equality, outstanding issues like climate change and gender-based violence need to be tackled, Equal Measures advised.
It also calls for a more multi-layered look at gender, calling policy makers to look for “groups of girls and women (who) might be invisible in national averages and at risk of being left behind, because of factors such as race, religion (and) sexual orientation.”