UN DESA Releases World’s Women 2015 Report
The Statistics Division of the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) has released a new report presenting the most up-to-date information on gender inequality around the world. The World’s Women 2015 Report offer a comprehensive picture of how women and men are living with regards to health, education, family composition, decision-making power, and more.
The reports adopts a life-cycle approach, describing how statistics (very well represented in this interactive site) vary among different age groups. For instance, there are more boys born than girls, but during adulthood men’s mortality rates tend to be higher. So in older age groups, the majority of the world’s population is women. This is significant because elder women in developing countries are more likely to be poor, which increases their vulnerability. Moreover, women generally represent the majority of formal and informal caregivers. By taking the life-cycle approach, it is possible to grasp many dimensions of vulnerability faced by women at different stages of their lives.
According to the report, the absolute figures of maternal death have decreased significantly. Unfortunately, the cases that do remain are concentrated in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa. This means that care received by pregnant women, new mothers, and newborns in those countries has only seen moderate improvements. This is in line with other risks faced by girls and young women, such as exposure to HIV-Aids and domestic violence. Unfortunately, more than 60% of women who suffer from this kind of violence in developing countries do not seek for any kind of help, medical or legal. This also renders them vulnerable to future harassment.
Fortunately, the world-wide situation for women’s education is improving. The rates of school attendance have increased in all levels from primary grade to tertiary degrees. The gender gap in historically male-dominated areas still remains, and women are minorities in fields like engineering and science. Moreover, a closer look into the world’s illiterate population shows that women represent two thirds of this group, a ratio that has not changed in the past 20 years.
The statistics provided in the report differ by region, and yet it was possible to notice that women in developed and developing countries have not yet been granted sufficient access to positions of power and decision-making authority in most countries. This is true both in public and private institutions, given that men most often serve as heads of governments, leaders in political parties, and CEO’s of private companies. The famous “glass ceiling” is a concrete reality for most women in the workforce.
Another very interesting area, where gender inequality has not been fully studied yet, is related to environmental resources. It is clear that women are generally more exposed to harmful sources of energy, such as charcoal and wood used for cooking. The report also points to new findings showing that men are more likely to survive extreme weather events and natural disasters. This is a new area of investigation for gender experts and environmental researchers, and more data needs to be gathered for further conclusions.
The last chapter of the report emphasized how statistical data is crucial for policy-makers, and it calls attention to the importance of collecting good quality data. Most country reports from developing regions do not offer gender disaggregated data in a way that allows analysts to determine the proportion of women and men in several areas such as employment and political participation. Without understanding how problems are gendered, it is impossible to