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This year the global theme is Pledge for Parity, encouraging urgent action to accelerate gender parity. The UN’s IWD theme for 2016 is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality” and is focused on the implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals. Around the world, organisations, governments and women’s groups come together to mark the past, present and future economic, political and social achievements of women. Hundreds of events are held worldwide throughout March, with some under themes that reflect local gender issues.

Gender gap index:

Based on the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index, Iceland has the least disparity between man and women in 2015. The lowest ranked country on the Gender gap index was Yemen, at 142nd. The UK was ranked 18th overall (an increase from 26th last year).(See Table 1, p. 6)

Ratio of girls to boys in education:

In 2015, on average, nearly as many girls as boys participated at all levels of education in developing regions. The gender parity index in primary and secondary education was 0.98 and 1.01 in tertiary education. This compares with the Millennium Development Goal target (0.97-1.03) set for 2015.(See Chart 1, p.8)

Women in employment:

UN estimates for 2015 show that the lowest percentage of women in non-agricultural wage employment is in Northern Africa (19%) followed by Southern Asia (21%) and Western Asia (21%). In the UK 64% of women with young children are employed, compared to 62% in EU. (See Chart 3 p. 10 and Table 2, p. 11)

Women in Parliament and Government

The global average of women in parliament doubled between 1995 and 2015, from 11.3% in 1995 to 22.7% in 2015. Following the 2015 General Election there are 191 (29%) female MPs in the UK House of Commons. 32% of UK Cabinet Ministers are female (7 of 22) and 25% of Members of the House of Lords are women (191). (Table 3, p12)

Maternal mortality

The global average of the maternal deaths per 100,000 live births was 169 in 2015, compared to 338 in 1990. It is highest in sub-Saharan Africa (where there were 510 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births). (See Table 4, p. 13)

Life expectancy:

The highest life expectancy among women is recorded in Hong Kong (China) (86.8 years), followed by Japan (86.7), whereas, the lowest in Swaziland (48.2 years). The average life expectancy for women in UK is 83 years. (See Table 5, p. 13)


The highest fertility rate is in Niger, with average of 7.7 children born per women. On average in the UK there are 1.9 children per women who lives through her entire child-bearing years.

Gender ratio:

In 2015 United Arab Emirates and Qatar, largely due to work related male immigration, had the lowest gender ratio, with 36 and 37 women per 100 men respectively. Latvia has the largest proportion of women for every 100 men (118), followed by Lithuania and Curacao (Both 117). There are 104 women for every 100 of men in the UK.(See Table 6, p. 14)

Violence against women:

More than one-third of women (35%) in the world have experienced either physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner or non-partner sexual violence.More than 137,000 women, born in countries where female genital mutilation is practised, were permanently resident in England and Wales in 2011. (See Chart 4, p. 15)

Women in the UK:

In 2015, median hourly earnings (excluding overtime) for full-time female employees were £12.54 compared to £13.84 for male. 26.0% of FTSE 100 company directors in March 2015 were women (up from 13% in 2011); for FTSE 250 companies 19.8% of directors were women (up from 8% in 2011). (See tables 8, 9 and Chart 7, pp. 17 -20)

This briefing paper replaces the International Women’s Day 2015: Background and statistics paper.

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