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Swiss equality is less equal than others'

Colourful work in Switzerland - shame about the pay and skill inequality Keystone

Switzerland ranks far behind its western European neighbours when it comes to sexual equality, a study by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum (WEF) has revealed.

This content was published on May 16, 2005 - 13:12

In the new "Gender Gap Index", Switzerland comes an unimpressive 34th. The gap between men and women is narrowest in Scandinavia.

Entitled Women’s Empowerment: Measuring the Global Gender Gap, the report measures the gap between women and men in five areas.

Switzerland does well on health and well-being (7) and relatively well on political empowerment (17) – which the WEF says is a notable achievement for a country where women could neither vote nor stand for office at a national level until 1971.

But it lags behind not only in economic participation and economic opportunity but also in education.

According to the survey, Switzerland is one of the very few developed nations where female enrolment rates for higher education are consistently lower than those for men.

In 34th place, Switzerland comes below below Russia, Uruguay and China. Of Switzerland's neighbours, only women in Italy get a rawer deal.

Swede success

Scandinavian countries are the star pupils of the WEF study, securing the first five places. Sweden leads the way.

Runner-up Norway is followed by Iceland, Denmark and Finland. The report says this proves that concerted efforts over time yield lasting results.

These countries are characterised by strongly liberal societies, with an impressive record of openness and transparency in government and comprehensive safety nets that provide security to vulnerable groups in the population.

Women in these countries have access to a wide spectrum of educational, political and work opportunities and enjoy a high standard of living.

While no country has yet managed to eliminate the gender gap, the Scandinavian countries have succeeded best in narrowing it and, according to the WEF, provide a workable model for the rest of the world.

Could do better

Lagging noticeably behind are most Latin-American countries. The problem here seems to be giving women access to the educational training and basic rights that will enable them to join the workforce.

Right at the bottom of the table are Pakistan, Turkey and Egypt. Their rankings reflect large disparities between men and women in all five areas of the index.

Turkey is set to start accession talks with the European Union on October 3.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Selected results from the WEF study:

1. Sweden
2. Norway
3. Iceland
4. Denmark
5. Finland
6. New Zealand

9. Germany

13. France

17. USA

28. Austria

31. Russia

33. China
34. Switzerland

38. Japan

45. Italy

50. Greece

58. Egypt

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In brief

Switzerland has come 34th in the World Economic Forum’s new 'Gender Gap Index’.

The report covers all 30 OECD countries and 28 other emerging markets and measures the gap between women and men in five areas:
Economic participation,
Economic opportunity,
Political empowerment,
Educational attainment,
Health and well-being.

The WEF was incorporated as a foundation in 1971 and is based in Geneva.

End of insertion

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