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Global issue 20

Inbox Report: gender equality will take at least 80 years Global gender equality has increased marginally but steadily over the last decade, the annual report on the gender gap by the World Economic Forum (WEF) has found. The report measures equality according to economic participation and pay; education; health and survival; and political participation in 142 countries. More than 100 countries noted an overall narrowing of the gap. Saadia Zahidi, the report’s lead author, said: “In nine years of measuring the global gender gap, the world has seen only a small improvement in equality for women in the workplace.” She added that no one country has closed its overall gender gap. Nordic countries lead the rankings, with Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Denmark occupying the top five places. The top ten are rounded off by Nicaragua, Rwanda, Ireland, the Philippines and Belgium. Meanwhile, Chad, Pakistan and Yemen occupy the last three places. The USA and UK come in at 20 and 26, respectively. Developed countries tend to score highly in health and education, particularly tertiary enrolment where equality has, in many instances, been surpassed. Equally, labour force membership is not a concern, but there is still a substantial gap in equal pay and managerial positions. Political empowerment and ministerial roles saw a similar shortfall, particularly in Japan and South Korea. “Much of the progress on gender equality over the last ten years has come from more women entering politics and the workforce,” said Zahidi. “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.” Individual sectors can have a significant impact on a country’s overall score, however. For instance, India scores poorly, despite a strong tradition of female-led politics which surpasses that of many developed countries. Rwanda, meanwhile, scored very highly due to a workforce approaching equality, and high prevalence of women in government and cabinet. Based on the WEF’s dataset, if improvement continues at the current rate – hypothetically speaking – and assuming no deterioration, it will take a further 81 years to eradicate the gender gap altogether. However, there are further factors to equality that the report does not take into account. Polio Day marks victory in SE Asia Celebrity ambassadors and polio survivors joined the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) on World Polio Day 2014 to celebrate advances made in the fight against polio. The event, which takes place on 24 October, commemorates the birth of Jonas Salk, the virologist who developed the first vaccine against polio. The 2014 event was streamed live over the internet and included performances from musicians Tessanne Chin and Ziggy Marley as well as updates on GPEI’s progress towards its goal – an end to polio by 2018. A spokesperson for GPEI said: “This is the first World Polio Day where the entire South East Asia region is verified to be polio free, following the threeyear anniversary of India’s monumental achievement in ending the transmission of the virus.” Polio is highly infectious – it causes irreversible paralysis and is sometimes fatal. There is no cure, but immunisation is cheap and effective. Two forms of vaccine are available, with the oral version being especially cost-effective because it can be given by volunteers and costs as little as 11 US cents per dose. In 1988 polio was endemic in 125 countries. Now only three countries, Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan, remain endemic for polio. Since its formation, GPEI has vaccinated more than two billion children and cases of the disease have decreased by 99 per cent. It is spearheaded by Rotary International, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, US Centers for Disease Control, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. n See page 12 for polio figures Kerala waters down liquor ban A controversial decision to ban the sale of alcohol in the Indian state of Kerala has been modified by the state government. In August 2014 plans were announced to ban the sale and consumption of alcohol in bars and shops, and introduce more alcohol-free days, including having a dry-day every Sunday. Under the new legislation only Kerala’s 23 five-star hotels were permitted to serve alcohol in the short term. The end goal, chief minister Oommen Chandy said, was the total prohibition of alcohol by 2024. Now Congress has decided to partially dilute the new policy in a move which Chandy said was taken to boost employment and, most importantly, to attract tourists – the state’s tourism industry having suffered since the introduction of the ban. “Thousands of people have lost their jobs since the bars were shut down,” he admitted. As part of the changes, Sundays will be withdrawn as dry days, and beer and wine licenses will be awarded to 418 bars, which had previously been forced to close. Kerala has a per capita alcohol consumption of more than eight litres per year, making it India’s highest consumer of alcohol. The national annual average, by comparison, is estimated at approximately 5.7 litres per capita. The move to ban alcohol came following reports of alcohol abuse serving as a factor in two-thirds of all crimes in the state. While the levels of alcohol abuse in Kerala have caused concern, the state’s economy remains dependent on the industry, with more than 20 per cent of the annual budget coming from the sale of liquor. www.global global f i rst quar ter 2015 -br ief ing.org l 7


Global issue 20
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