The World Economic Forum recently published their annual Global Gender Gap report causing many of us to wonder, once again, why the heck we don’t move to Northern Europe or Scandanavia where the maternity leave flows like water and affordable childcare is as easy to find as a Starbucks.
For this report, researchers look at how women are doing in four key areas: health and survival, education, politics and economic equality in 136 countries. The top ten countries for women, in order of smallest gender gap to largest, are: Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, Latvia and the Netherlands. This year the US ranked 23 and Israel came in at 53.
In the health and survival category, Israel ranked 93 and the US ranked 33. (Remember, the lower the number the better of women are doing.) In educational attainment, Israel ranked 83 and the US ranked 1. In the economic participation and opportunity category, Israel came in at 56 and the US came in at 6, and in the political empowerment category Israel came in at 57 and the US came in at 60.
A few other points of comparison: The average fertility rate per woman in Israel is 2.91 and in the US it is 1.99, and 50% of Israeli women are employed in the non-agricultural sector compared to 48% in the US. Also, Israeli women are guaranteed 14 weeks of paid maternity leave and there is an option for fathers to take some of it after 6 weeks. Women in the US get nada. In the infant mortality category Israel got a 4 and the US got a 6, and the adolescent fertility rate is 14 (per 1000 births) in Israel and 30 in the US. And while the US offers more for women in terms of economic opportunity, labor force participation by women is higher in Israel than it is in the US.
Both countries have actually seen a rise in gender inequality in the past few years. In 2006 Israel ranked 35, though it did do a little better than last year when it ranked 56. The States made it to 17 and 19 in 2010 and 2011 and then began to rise again last year.
While I am in not in a position to unpack this stagnation, I do think it is worth noting how it goes against many of our assumptions that the gender gap in progressive countries will continue to shrink, if only by inertia alone.
For those of you who have lived in both countries, which do you think is better for women? Does this report reflect your lived experience? Please share in the comments section below.
Elissa Strauss has written for the Forward over a number of years. She is a regular contributor to CNN, whose work has been published in a number of publications including The New York Times, Glamour, ELLE, and Longreads.
Gender Gap in Israel, U.S. Grows