An annual reality check

This year is the 10th edition of the report, which measures gaps in outcomes between women and men, irrespective of a country’s level of development.

Before examining Turkey’s record, let’s cast a look at global trends. Overall, there has been some progress. In educational attainment, measured in access to primary, secondary and tertiary education, 25 countries have closed the gap, but in 22 percent of countries studied, however, the disparity is wider than it was a decade ago. And although women now make up the majority of students in 100 countries, this progress is not matched in economic participation and opportunity, which continue to show wide disparities. In fact, WEF calculated that the economic gap is narrowing at such a glacial pace that it will take 118 years to close.

Globally, the gap is smallest in Health and Survival, where results are fairly close to parity, at 96 percent. This is also the field where Turkey performed best, positioning itself in joint first place with 39 other nations.

But for Turkey, the good news stops here. Turkey’s overall score may have advanced slightly in the past decade, but the country has not kept up with change elsewhere in the world. As a result, Turkey has dropped five ranks since last year. Not a performance the authorities in Ankara can be proud of.

Scandinavian nations are regularly present at the top of the list, but emerging countries, some of them with a lower income than Turkey and at an earlier stage of development, also offer more equal access to resources and opportunities to both genders.

Rwanda, a low-income country, for instance, is in sixth position, while Nicaragua, in the lower-middle income group, is 12th overall. Namibia and South Africa not only top the list of upper-middle income countries, which also includes Turkey, but they also make it into the select group of the 20 best performers globally.

Turkey, on the other hand, is close to the bottom of the index in the upper-middle income countries category, with only Lebanon, Jordan and Iran faring worse. When it comes to regional comparisons, the situation is no better: Turkey comes a distant last among the 46 countries of Europe and Central Asia. Armenia, the next worst performer in this region, ranks 105th, 25 ranks above Turkey.

To measure the gap in political empowerment, WEF researchers look at the gender balance at the highest level of decision making and the gap at ministerial and parliamentary level. In addition, they also look at the ratio of women to men in executive positions (prime minister, president) over the past 50 years. Luckily for Turkey, the gender ratio in local administration is not recorded. In any case, Turkey ranks 105th in this category and its performance won’t have improved with the latest elections, which saw female representation in Parliament retreat from 18 percent in June to 15 percent.

In economic participation, Turkey, which has a very low female labor force participation, ranks a poor 131st. The report also suggests that progress in closing the educational attainment gap was not sufficient to lift Turkey above 105th place.

The gender gap is viewed by WEF as a loss of talent and therefore an impediment to economic growth and greater competitiveness. Yet, judging by the disappointing results year after year, the Turkish authorities are not ready to invest in policies that would allow the country to make a leap on the gender equality front.

Some clues to this lack of determination may be found in the recent Pew survey, which measured support for fundamental democratic freedoms across the world. While on average 86 percent of people in six European countries studied expressed support for women’s rights, in Turkey only 48 percent of people deemed it very important that women enjoy the same rights as men.

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN

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