LONDON, Oct 28 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Yemen was the worst performer in a gender equality index released on Tuesday, which found women worldwide are almost on a par with men in terms of health and education, but lag behind in economic and political participation and opportunities.
Ranked the least gender-equal of 142 countries for the ninth successive year, Yemen fared worse than Pakistan, Chad, Syria and Mali, according to the Global Gender Gap Report.
Yemen has no female members of parliament, and only one in ten ministerial positions are held by women, while the gap between the literacy rate and enrolment in education of girls compared to boys is among the widest in the world.
Last year's leading four nations, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, remain the most gender-equal societies in the world, followed by Denmark, up to fifth place from eighth.
Saadia Zahidi, a senior director at the World Economic Forum and lead author of the report, said much of the progress on gender equality over the past decade was a result of more women entering politics and the workforce.
"While more women and more men have joined the workforce over the last decade, more women than men entered the labour force in 49 countries," Zahidi said as the report was released.
"And in the case of politics, globally, there are now 26 percent more female parliamentarians and 50 percent more female ministers than nine years ago," she said in a statement.
The report found that having more women in the workforce contributes to economic productivity, and said the narrowing of the male-female employment gap has been an important factor behind European economic growth over the last decade.
Closing this gap further would have significant implications for developed economies, boosting GDP in the United States by as much as 9 percent and eurozone GDP by as much as 13 percent, the report said.
While many countries have closed the gender gap in terms of education and health, the trend is reversing in some parts of the world, including Bahrain, Colombia and Japan.
Nearly 30 percent have wider education gaps and more than 40 percent have wider health and survival gaps compared to 2006.
Of the 111 countries continuously covered in the report over the last nine years, prospects for women have deteriorated in Sri Lanka, Mali, Croatia, Macedonia, Jordan and Tunisia.
The report measured gender gaps in salaries, workforce participation, highly-skilled employment, access to basic and higher education, representation in positions of power, life expectancy and the proportion of men and women in the population.
(Reporting By Kieran Guilbert; Editing by Ros Russell)
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