The 2022 SDG Gender Index finds little progress on gender equality at the global level between 2015 and 2020. The global Index score for gender equality stands at just 67.8 in 2020: only a slight improvement of less than two points since 2015.
If current trends continue, the global score will reach only 71 out of 100 by 2030, the deadline for the achievement of the SDGs. And even this projection could be seen as optimistic, given the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has already had on the well-being of girls and women worldwide.
The level of a country’s Index score is based on a scale of 0 to 100 points, where 0 is the lowest score and 100 is the highest. A score of 100 would indicate a country has met the gender equality target for that issue. We have grouped the scores into five categories with labels from ‘very good’ down to ‘very poor’. For example, a country receiving a score of 84 for SDG 4 on education would be considered ‘good’ in terms of its performance on gender equality in this area.
Very good: 90-100
Very poor: 0-59
The progress/pace of change achieved by countries since 2015 is represented by four categories, from ‘fast progress’ down to ‘wrong direction’. For example, a country that raised its score from 82 in 2015 to 84 in 2020 would be considered to have made ‘some progress’. ‘Fast progress’ should be seen as ‘fast’ relative to other countries over the period studied, not relative to the pace of change needed to reach the SDGs. While all changes must be contextualized, countries starting from a lower score have greater scope for high rates of change.
Fast progress: Score increased by >3 points
Some progress: Score increased by <3 points and >1 point
No progress: Score stayed the same (less than +1 or -1 change in points)
Decline or Wrong direction: Score declined by more than -1 point
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- Overall progress on gender equality across the SDGs has been too slow, too fragile and too fragmented: there was slow progress on global gender equality from 2015 to 2020.
- If current trends continue, the world would reach an Index score of only 71 out of the target of 100 by 2030, or less than four points higher than in 2020 towards the achievement of the SDGs.
- Not one of the 144 countries in the SDG Gender Index has achieved gender equality, and no country is the performs well across all individual SDGs. Every country has more to do to realize the vision of gender equality embedded within the goals.
- Less than a quarter of countries are making ‘fast progress’ towards gender equality; a third of countries are either making ‘no progress’ at all or are moving in the ‘wrong direction’.
- On the positive side, more than half of countries worldwide are moving in the right direction, albeit often slowly, on gender equality.
- In 2020, more than three billion girls and women still lived in countries with ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ Index scores for overall gender equality.
The context for gender equality
- The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the deep fault lines in gender equality that have intensified the impact of the pandemic on girls and women.
- An intersectional lens is vital. Without understanding how inequalities combine and accumulate, it is hard to identify the problems and, therefore, the solutions.
- Ecological collapse has a profound impact on girls and women, who see their resources dwindle and their responsibilities expand.
- Gender equality has become a political battlefield in an era of increasing political polarity. There is growing opposition to many human rights, and the rights of girls and women are a favourite target.
- Austerity measures have become the ‘go to’ option for countries in response to crises. But the resulting cuts to public services hit girls and women first and hardest.
- International justice and solidarity are in short supply. Countries that bear the least responsibility for climate change lack the necessary support, and there has been little improvement in aid effectiveness over the past decade.
Overview of the policy recommendations
The 2022 SDG Gender Index sets out a blueprint for change, based on six cross-cutting themes that often characterize the countries and regions making some progress on gender equality.
- Reform and apply inequality laws. Countries that reform and fully implement gender equality laws have better health, nutrition and educational outcomes for women and their families, more resilient employment for women, and more women in their parliaments.
- Invest in public services and social (including care) infrastructure. The social transformation needed for gender equality must be funded, which requires gender-responsive budgets, progressive taxation and strong investment in public services and public (including care) infrastructure.
- Promote the leadership, participation and voice of girls and women. The key is to combat gender norms and promote role models, with the greater visibility of women in public life creating a virtuous circle of participation.
- Close the gender data gaps. This means investing in improving data infrastructure and formalizing the idea of a gender data ecosystem, but also mobilizing and building bridges between different stakeholders and data communities, and making good use of ‘big data’.
- Invest in, create space for, and listen to feminist organizations and movements. Little progress on women’s rights would have been made without pressure and advocacy from these organizations and movements. They need proper resourcing and safe, secure spaces in which to operate and advocate.
- Work with and empower girls and young women. Their voices should be heard in the decisions that affect them. Programmes, policies and laws designed with and for them, and funding for their groups, are critical for accelerated progress towards gender equality.
- Figure 1. Fewer than 1 out of 4 countries are making 'fast' progress towards gender equality.
- Figure 2. The big picture of global progress towards gender equality
- Figure 3. How to read the Index scores
- Figure 4. Progress on global gender equality too slow to meet targets by 2030
- Figure 5. No country has achieved the promise of gender equality envisioned in the SDGs
- Figure 6. More than half of countries worldwide made progress on gender equality
- Figure 7. More than three billion girls and women lived in countries with ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ gender equality scores in 2020
- Figure 8. Some countries achieve more for gender equality with fewer resources
- Figure 9. Wide variation across the SDGs in global scores and change since 2015
- Figure 10. Even the top-scoring countries on the Index lag behind on some SDGs and gender equality issues
- Figure 11. Surprising findings from across the world
- Figure 12. Which gender equality issues have seen the greatest change from 2015 to 2020?
- Figure 13. How old will a girl who is 10-years-old today be before her country achieves gender equality on key issues in the seven EM2030 focus countries?
- Figure 14. Regional average Index scores and change from 2015 to 2020
- Figure 15: Women’s perceptions of their household economic situation declined globally between 2015 and 2020 and will likely slip further without urgent, gender-focused action
- Figure 16. Discouraging trends in levels of ‘personal autonomy, individual rights and freedom from discrimination’
- Figure 17. 55 per cent of countries made ‘some progress’ or ‘fast progress’ on women’s representation amongst their country’s climate change delegations
- Figure 18. Massive declines in the ability of women to discuss political issues openly in private and public spaces
- Figure 19. Two-thirds of countries increased their military spending between 2015 and 2020
- Figure 20. Stark contrast in wealth of countries at the top and bottom of the index
- Figure 21. Scores on key gender equality laws vary widely by region
- Figure 22. In regions with high economic inequality, women are also less satisfied with public infrastructure
- Figure 23. The share of women in government: low but improving
- Figure 24. Significant progress on 'disaggregated statistics' since 2017
- Figure 25. Women's freedom to discuss political issues worsens in every region (2015 to 2020)
- Figure 26. Low-income countries continue to face challenges in ensuring that every girl and young woman goes to secondary school
Did you know?
More than half of countries worldwide made progress on gender equality between 2015 and 2020
63 countries made ‘some progress’
28 countries made ‘fast progress’