Gender Inequality Index

When a woman expresses disdain about a situation at work, she is often described as "emotional", whereas when a man does it, he is lauded as "assertive". This is just one of the many examples of how prevalent gender inequality still is in the contemporary world. In order to fully understand the extent of and correct gender inequality, we must be able to quantify it. In this explanation, we shall explore one such measure used to quantify gender inequality, the gender inequality index. 

Gender Inequality Index Gender Inequality Index

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Table of contents

    Gender inequality index definition

    Gender inequality has been ongoing in society and has been acknowledged as one of the more significant barriers to achieving human development. As a result, measures such as the gender-related development index (GDI) and the gender empowerment measure (GEM) were developed and have formed part of the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP's) Human Development Report (HDR) starting in 1998, in an attempt to quantify different aspects of gender inequality.

    However, it was recognized that there were gaps in these measures. Consequently, as a response to the methodological and conceptual limitations of the GDI and the GEM, the gender inequality index (GII) was introduced by the UNDP in its 2010 annual HDR. The GII considered new aspects of gender inequality that were not included in the other two gender-related indicators1.

    The gender inequality index (GII) is a composite measure that reflects the inequality in the achievements of men and women in reproductive health, political empowerment, and the labour market2,3.

    The gender-related development index (GDI) measures the inequalities between males and females relating to life expectancy at birth, education, and control of economic resources.

    The gender empowerment measure (GEM) measures the differences between males and females regarding political participation, economic participation, and control over economic resources4.

    Gender inequality index calculation

    As previously stated, the GII has 3 dimensions- reproductive health, political empowerment, and labour market.

    Reproductive health

    Reproductive health is calculated by looking at the maternal mortality ratio (MMR) and the adolescent fertility rate (AFR) using the following equation:

    Political empowerment

    Political empowerment is found by looking at the share of parliamentary seats held by men and women (PR) and the ratio of women and men aged 25 and over who have achieved a secondary or higher education (SE) using the equation below.

    M= Male

    F= Female

    Labour market

    The labour market participation rate (LFPR) for men and women over 15 years of age is calculated by the following equation. This dimension ignores unpaid work done by women, e.g. in the household.

    M= Male

    F= Female

    Finding the gender inequality index

    After the individual dimensions have been calculated, the GII is found using the four steps below.

    Step 1

    Aggregate across the dimensions for each gender group using the geometric mean.

    M= Male

    F= Female

    G= Geometric mean

    Step 2

    Aggregate across gender groups using the harmonic mean. This shows inequalities and allows for a relationship among the dimensions.

    M= Male

    F= Female

    G= Geometric mean

    Step 3

    Calculate the geometric mean of the arithmetic mean for each dimension.

    M= Male

    F= Female

    G= Geometric mean

    Step 4

    Calculate the GII.

    M= Male

    F= Female

    G= Geometric mean

    Gender inequality index ranking

    The GII value ranges from 0 (no inequality) to 1 (complete inequality). Therefore, the higher the value of the GII, the greater the disparity between males and females and vice versa. The GII, as presented in the Human Development Report, ranks 170 countries. Generally, the rankings show that countries with high human development, based on their Human Development Index (HDI) score, have GII values which are closer to 0. In contrast, the countries with lower HDI scores have GII values which are closer to 1.

    Gender Inequality Index ranking
    Human Development Index (HDI) CategoryAverage GII value
    Very high human development0.155
    High human development0.329
    Medium human development0.494
    Low human development0.577
    Table 1 - 2021 HDI categories and corresponding GII values.5

    There are exceptions to this, of course. For example, in the 2021/2022 Human Development Report, Tonga, which ranks in the high HDI category, ranks almost last in the GII category at 160th place out of 170. Similarly, Rwanda, which ranks low in HDI (165th place), ranks in 93rd place in terms of GII5.

    In terms of the overall rankings for individual countries, Denmark ranks 1st with a GII value of 0.03, while Yemen ranks last (170th) with a GII value of 0.820. Looking at GII scores among world regions, we will see that Europe and Central Asia rank first with an average GII of 0.227. Next comes East Asia and the Pacific, with an average GII value of 0.337. Latin America and the Caribbean rank 3rd with an average GII of 0.381, South Asia 4th with 0.508, and Sub-saharan Africa 5th with an average GII of 0.569. There is also a significant difference in the average GII of the states that make up the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) at 0.185 compared to the least developed countries in the world with a GII value of 0.5625.

    Gender inequality index map

    As previously stated, there are variations in GII values throughout the world. Typically, we see that countries with GII values closer to 0 are those with higher HDI values. Spatially, it is expressed as those nations in the global "north" having GII values closer to zero (less gender inequality). In comparison, those in the global "south" have GII values closer to 1 (higher gender inequality).

    Gender Inequality Index global GII values 2021 StudySmarterFig. 1 - global GII values, 2021

    Gender inequality index example

    Let us look at two examples. One from a country which ranks in the top 30 as it relates to GII and the other from a nation that ranks in the bottom 10.

    United Kingdom

    According to the 2021/2022 Human Development Report, the United Kingdom has a GII score of 0.098, ranking 27th out of the 170 countries for which the gender inequality index is measured. This represents an improvement over its 2019 placement of 31st, when it had a GII value of 0.118. The UK's GII value is lower (i.e. there is less inequality) than the average GII value for the OECD and the Europe and Central Asia region - both of which the UK is a member.

    With regard to the country's individual indicators for 2021, the maternal mortality ratio for the UK was 7 deaths per 100,000, and the adolescent birth rate stood at 10.5 births per 1000 women ages 15-19. In the UK, women held 31.1% of the seats in parliament. Exactly 99.8% of men and women have at least some secondary education at 25 or older. Further, the labour force participation rate stood at 67.1% for men and 58.0% for women5.

    Gender Inequality Index UK House of Lords by gender (1998-2021) StudySmarterFig. 2 - number of members of the UK House of Lords by gender (1998-2021)

    Mauritania

    In 2021, Mauritania ranked 161st out of 170 countries for which GII is measured, with a value of 0.632. This is lower than the average GII value for sub-Saharan Africa (0.569). Their 2021 ranking is ten places below their 2019 ranking of 151; however, it must be appreciated that the value of the GII in the country actually slightly improved from 0.634 in 2019 to its 0.632 value in 2021. Therefore, from the lower ranking, it can be inferred that Mauritania's progress towards improving this measurement of gender equality has lagged behind other nations which ranked lower than it in 2019.

    When we look at the individual indicators, in 2021, Mauritania's maternal mortality ratio was 766 deaths per 100,000, and its adolescent birth rate stood at 78 births per 1000 women ages 15-19. Here, women held 20.3% of the seats in parliament. The proportion of males with some secondary education at 25 or older was 21.9%, while for females, it was 15.5%. Additionally, the labour force participation rate stood at 62.2% for men and 27.4% for women.

    Gender Inequality Index - Key takeaways

    • The gender inequality index was first introduced by the UNDP in its 2010 Human Development Report.
    • GII measures the level of inequality in the achievement of men and women using 3 dimensions- reproductive health, political empowerment and the labour market.
    • The GII values range from 0-1, with 0 indicating no inequality and 1 indicating complete inequality between men and women.
    • GII is measured in 170 countries, and typically those nations with high levels of human development also tend to have better GII scores and vice versa.
    • Denmark ranks 1st with a GII of 0.03, while Yemen ranks last with a GII of 0.820.

    References

    1. Amin, E. and Sabermahani, A. (2017), 'Gender inequality index appropriateness for measuring inequality', Journal of Evidence-Informed Social Work, 14(1), pp. 8-18.
    2. UNDP (2022) Gender inequality index (GII). Accessed: 27 November 2022.
    3. World Health Organization (2022) Nutrition landscape information system (NLiS)- gender inequality index (GII). Accessed: 27 November 2022.
    4. Stachura, P. and Jerzy, S. (2016), 'Gender indicators of the United Nations Development Programme', Economic and Environmental Studies, 16(4), pp. 511-530.
    5. UNDP (2022) Human development report 2021-2022. NY: United Nations Development Programme.
    6. Fig. 1: global inequality index from the human development report, 2021 (https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/gender-inequality-index-from-the-human-development-report) by Our World in Data (https://ourworldindata.org/) Licensed by: CC BY 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/deed.en_US)
    7. Fig. 2: the size of the United Kingdom House of Lords since 1998 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_size_of_the_United_Kingdom_House_of_Lords_since_1998.png) by Chris55 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Chris55) licensed by CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en)
    Frequently Asked Questions about Gender Inequality Index

    What is the Gender Inequality Index? 

    The gender inequality index measures the disparities between men and women. 

    What does the gender inequality index measure? 

    The gender inequality index measures the inequality between men and women in achieving three dimensions- reproductive health, political empowerment and the labour market. 

    When was the gender inequality index introduced? 

    The gender inequality index was introduced by the UNDP in the 2010 Human Development Report. 

    What does a high gender inequality measure? 

    High gender inequality means a significant gap in the achievements of men and women in a particular country. This typically indicates that women are lagging behind men in their achievements. 

    How is the gender inequality index measured? 

    The gender inequality index is measured on a scale of 0-1. 0 indicates no inequality between men and women, while 1 indicates complete inequality between men and women. 

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    In what year was the GII introduced?

    TRUE or FALSE: The gender empowerment measure (GEM) looked at differences between males and females as they related to life expectancy, education and economic resources.

    Which two indicators are used to measure the reproductive health dimension of the GII?

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