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This year the global theme is Be Bold for Change, encouraging urgent action to accelerate gender parity. The UN’s IWD theme for 2017 is “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50:50 by 2030” is focused on the economic empowerment of women in the globalised world. In 2015, the UN introduced the Sustainable Development Goals with a big emphasis on gender equality and social justice. 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 had the least disparity between men and women in 2016. The lowest ranked country on the Gender gap index was Yemen, at 144th. The UK was ranked 20th overall (a decrease from 18th last year). (See Table 1, p. 6)

Out-of-school rate

Out-of-school rate measures the proportion of children in school-age who are not enrolled in formal education. Girls are more likely than boys to be excluded from both primary and secondary education. 16% and 22% of girls of school-age worldwide are not formally enrolled in primary and secondary education, respectively (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 2 p. 9 and Table 2, p. 10)

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. 35% of UK Cabinet Ministers are female (8 of 23) and 26% of Members of the House of Lords are women (207). (Table 3, p11)

Maternal mortality

The global average of 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 546 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births). (See Table 4, p. 12)

Life expectancy

In 2015, Japan had the highest life expectancy for women, at 86.8 years, followed by Singapore (86.1 years) and South Korea (85.5 years). The lowest female life expectancy was recorded in Sierra Leone (50.8 years). The average life expectancy for women in UK is 83 years. (See Table 5, p. 12)

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. 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 woman who lives through her entire child-bearing years. (See Table 7, p.13)

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.

Women in the UK

In 2016, median hourly earnings (excluding overtime) for full-time female employees were £12.82 compared to £14.16 for male. 26.8 % of FTSE 100 company directors in October 2016 were women (up from 13% in 2011); for FTSE 250 companies 21.3% of directors were women (up from 8% in 2011). (See tables 8, 9 and Chart 4, pp. 16 -19)

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