UNEQUAL: Many women still earn less than men for the same work, says the writer.

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa has retrogressed in crucial global indices but narrowly made the top 20 countries in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report for 2017.

The country fell four places to 19 of 144 countries covered in the flagship report this year. The continent's most advanced economy ranked the third most gender-equal country in sub-Saharan Africa behind Rwanda and Namibia, which featured at numbers 4 and 16 respectively.

South Africa also failed to feature on the economic participation and opportunity sub-index list of African countries that have managed to close more than 80percent of their gap, as it was Burundi, Benin, Botswana, Rwanda, Namibia and Guinea, among others, that were included.

However, not all was doom and gloom for South Africa, which achieved an overall score of 0.756 on the global index, as it was ranked No1 on health and survival sub-index, with a respectable score of 0.993. On the economic participation and opportunity sub-index, the country ranked 89 at 0.652, while on educational attainment it came 64th, with a score of 0.993.

Burundi tailed South Africa closely with a ranking of 22 and a score of 0.755. Zimbabwe ranked 50th, while Africa’s last absolute monarchy, Swaziland, achieved a ranking of 105.

In the bottom three spots of the global index were war-torn Syria, ranked 142, Pakistan at 143 and Yemen, one of the Arab world’s poorest countries, rock bottom at 144. On sub-Saharan Africa, the index noted that the region, with an average remaining gender gap of 32percent, “scores in the lower middle range of the Global Gender Gap Index”.

It added: “Two countries, Namibia and South Africa, score in the top 20 and have closed 78percent to 76percent of their gender gaps; and the region features many of the lowest-ranked countries in the index, such as Mali and Chad, which have not yet closed 60percent of their overall gender gap.” South Africa ranked 18 out of 144 on political empowerment. Broken down, it ranked 10 for women in Parliament, and 9 for women in ministerial positions.

The country achieved 33.1percent for female youth not in employment or education, against 28.0percent of male youth who found themselves in the same predicament. Females in the country worked 444.6 minutes a day, compared to males who laboured for 397.1 minutes a day. The index also revealed that 56.1 percent of all South African women’s work was unpaid, compared to 25.9 percent of men.

South Africa has been on a downward trajectory as far as global indices are concerned. The country also fell from the No1 spot it had enjoyed for the past seven years, to rank 30 regarding the quality of auditing and reporting standards.

- BUSINESS REPORT