CAPE TOWN - The World Economic Forum's latest figures on the global gender gap show that, with slow progress in correcting gender disparities in the workplace, declining representation in politics, unequal access to health, education, among others, closing the gap is at least 200 years away.

Published on Tuesday, the figures indicate that the global gender gap remains slightly reduced in 2018 and the data suggest that it will take 108 years to close the overall gender gap and 202 years to bring about parity in the workplace.

The report revealed that the world has closed 68 percent of its gender gap, as measured across four key pillars, the economic opportunity, political empowerment, educational attainment, and health and survival.  

Trends emerging show progress only in the economic pillar, with gender gaps widening in education, health and politics in 2018.

The narrowing in the economic pillar can be attributed to a narrower income gap between men and women, nearly 51 percent in 2018, and the number of women in top jobs, 34 percent globally.

However, the data also shows that fewer women than men are entering the labour force, for a number of reasons, including that automation is displacing women because it has greater impact on traditionally women's work.

Women also are under-represented in sectors of the digital revolution that require science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills and knowledge. 

Without infrastructure for childcare and caring for the elderly, unpaid work that has been seen as the responsibility of women, they are deterred from entering or re-entering the enter the workforce. As a consequence, the increased investment in their education does not necessarily translate into growth.

The year-on-year deterioration in political empowerment can be partly due to fewer women holding office around the world - only 17 countries have women as heads if state while 18 percent of ministers and 24 percent of parliamentarians globally are women. 

“The economies that will succeed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be those that are best able to harness all their available talent,” founder and executive chairperson of the WEF, Klaus Schwab, said.

"Proactive measures that support gender parity and social inclusion and address historical imbalances are therefore essential for the health of the global economy as well as for the good of society as a whole,” Schwab said.

- African News Agency (ANA)