Student videos

Development Contrasts: Gender Inequality

  • Levels: A Level, IB
  • Exam boards: AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB, Eduqas, WJEC

In this short revision video we look at the depth of gender inequalities across countries at different stages of human development.

Development Contrasts: Gender Inequality

You can download a copy of the video presentation slides here

The 2019 Human Development Report published in December 2019 stated that

“Gender disparities are among the most entrenched forms of inequality everywhere. Because these disadvantages affect half the world, gender inequality is one of the greatest barriers to human development.”

“All too often, women and girls are discriminated against in health, in education, at home and in the labour market—with negative repercussions for their freedoms“

The gender Inequality Index is a measure of women’s empowerment in health, education and economic status and is published each year as part of the Human Development Index.

The UK is ranked 15th on the Human Development Index but 27th on the Gender Inequality Ranking. Notice the relatively high adolescent birth rate and a relatively low labour force participation rate contrasted with Norway.

Contrasting Vietnam with India.

They have a similar HDI ranking (118th and 129th respectively) but Vietnam has a lower level of gender inequality. Their maternal mortality ratio is less than one third of India although the adolescent birth rate is more than twice as high. Significantly, two thirds of females have at least some secondary education in contrast to India (below 40 per cent) and the female labour market participation ratio is much high - India has one of the lowest female participation ratios in the world with less than one woman in four active in the formal labour market.

Social norms play an important role here. Social norms are values, beliefs, attitudes and practices that often have a powerful influence on behaviours. Women often face strong conventional societal expectations to be caregivers and homemakers.

Niger has the worst ranking for gender inequality in the world (data is published for only 154 countries in the 2019 HDI database). Their maternal mortality rate is over three times higher than in Bangladesh; the adolescent birth rate is staggeringly high and less than five per cent of females have at least some secondary education.

The 2019 Economics Nobel winner Esther Duflo wrote an important paper on gender inequalities as a development barrier in 2012. You can download it from this link. She argued that “Women empowerment and economic development are closely related: in one direction, development alone can play a major role in driving down inequality between men and women; in the other direction, empowering women may benefit development.

The 2019 HDI report claims that progress towards gender quality is slowing and they argue that biased beliefs and practices built around deeply embedded social norms sustain persistent gender inequalities – glass ceilings remain in many areas of economic, social and political life.

“The world is not on track to achieve gender equality by 2030. Based on current trends, it would take 202 years to close the gender gap in economic opportunity.”

Examine policies to address persistent gender inequalities

  1. Stricter laws & enforcement to ban child marriage and sexual harassment
  2. Laws on female representation in politics and boardrooms
  3. Enhanced social safety nets including minimum wages, tuition-free primary education and paid parental leave
  4. Encourage women into non-traditional vocations – invest in their human capital
  5. Addressing and changing aspirations – in many countries, parents have lower aspirations for their daughters than for their sons

Women’s poverty arises from unequal access to economic resources – the most effective policies are likely to be those that address this fundamental inequity.


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