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Prospects for Workplace Gender Equality Slip to 2186

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The world is facing an acute misuse of talent by not acting faster to tackle gender inequality, which could put economic growth at risk and deprive economies of the opportunity to develop, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2016, which is published today.

The report is an annual benchmarking exercise that measures progress towards parity between men and women in four areas: Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, Economic Opportunity and Political Empowerment. In this latest edition, the report finds that progress towards parity in the key economic pillar has slowed dramatically with the gap – which stands at 59% – now larger than at any point since 2008.

Behind this decline are a number of factors. One is salary, with women around the world on average earning just over half of what men earn despite, on average, working longer hours taking paid and unpaid work into account. Another persistent challenge is stagnant labour force participation, with the global average for women standing at 54%, compared to 81% for men. The number of women in senior positions also remains stubbornly low, with only four countries in the world having equal numbers of male and female legislators, senior officials and managers, despite the fact that 95 countries now have as many – if not more – women educated at university level.

In 2015, projections based on the Global Gender Gap Report data suggested that the economic gap could be closed within 118 years, or 2133. However the progress has reversed since then, having peaked in 2013.

Away from economics, the education gender gap has closed 1% over the past year to over 95%, making it one of the two areas where most progress has been made to date. Health and Survival, the other pillar to have closed 96% of its gap, has deteriorated minimally. Two-thirds of the 144 countries measured in this year’s report can now claim to have fully closed their gender gap in sex ratio at birth, while more than one-third have fully closed the gap in terms of healthy life expectancy.

The pillar where the gender gap looms largest, Political Empowerment, is also the one that has seen the greatest amount of progress since the World Economic Forum began measuring the gender gap in 2006. This now stands at over 23%; 1% greater than 2015 and nearly 10% higher than in 2006. However, improvements are starting from a low base: only two countries have reached parity in parliament and only four have reached parity on ministerial roles, according to the latest globally comparable data.

The slow rate of progress towards gender parity, especially in the economic realm, poses a particular risk given the fact that many jobs that employ a majority of women are likely to be hit proportionately hardest by the coming age of technological disruption known as the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This “hollowing out” of female livelihoods could deprive economies further of women’s talents and increases the urgency for more women to enter high-growth fields such as those demanding STEM skills. “Women and men must be equal partners in managing the challenges our world faces – and in reaping the opportunities. Both voices are critical in ensuring the Fourth Industrial Revolution delivers its promise for society,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

Which are the world’s most gender-equal countries?

With women on average benefiting from only two-thirds of the access to health, education, economic participation and political representation that men have, a number of nations are emerging to challenge the traditional hegemony of the Nordic nations as the world’s most gender-equal societies. While the leading four nations are Iceland (1), Finland (2), Norway (3) and Sweden (4) – with Finland overtaking Norway – the next highest placed nation is Rwanda, which moves one place ahead of Ireland to 5th position. Following Ireland, the Philippines remains unchanged at 7th, narrowly ahead of Slovenia (8) and New Zealand (9), which both move up one place. With Switzerland dropping out of the top 10, 10th position is taken up by Nicaragua.

Elsewhere, the United States (45) loses 17 places since last year, primarily due to a more transparent measure for the estimated earned income. Other major economies in the top 20 include Germany (13), France (17) and the United Kingdom (20). Among the BRICS grouping, the highest-placed nation remains South Africa (15), which moves up two places since last year with improvements across all pillars. The Russian Federation (75) is next, followed by Brazil (79). India (87) gains 21 spots and overtakes China (99) with improvements across Economic Participation and Opportunity and Educational Attainment.

Regional outcomes

Countries from Western Europe – including the three largest economies, France, Germany and the UK – occupy 11 of the top 20 positions in the Index. While some countries have clear room for improvement (Italy drops 9 places to 50; Greece drops 5 to 92), it has now closed 75% of its gender gap, more than any other region. At the current rate, it could expect to close its economic gender gap within 47 years.

After Europe and North America, the region with the third narrowest gender gap is Latin America and the Caribbean. With 70% of its gap now closed, it boasts six countries to have fully filled both their education and gender gaps, more than any other region. It can also be expected at the current rate of improvement to have closed its economic gender gap within six decades. With Nicaragua the only country in the top 20, however, the performance of the largest economies – Argentina (33), Mexico (66), Chile (70) and Brazil (79) – is mixed.

The region with the fourth-smallest gender gap is Eastern Europe and Central Asia, with four countries – Slovenia (8), Latvia (18), Estonia (22) and Lithuania (25) – in the top 25. Slovenia is one of the top 10 climbers in the world since 2006. Like Latin America and the Caribbean, the region has also closed 70% of its overall gender gap; however, it is not expected at today’s rate to have closed its economic gender gap for another 93 years.

East Asia and the Pacific follows next, having closed 68% of its gender gap. This is a region of stark contrast, with a large distance between the most gender-equal societies such as the Philippines and New Zealand and economic heavyweights China (99), Japan (111) and Korea (116). The sluggish pace of change in these larger nations in part explains why current projections suggest the region will not close its economic gap for another 111 years.

Four nations from Sub-Saharan Africa – Rwanda (5), Burundi (12), Namibia (14) and South Africa (15) make it into the top 20; more than any other region except Western Europe. The region has closed nearly 68% of its gender gap; however, data suggest that it will only take 60 years for economic parity to be achieved – far less than other more developed regions of the world. But, high labour force participation for women tends to be in low-skilled roles in the region, a factor that will need to be addressed to ensure that economic parity leads to growth and inclusion.

South Asia, with 67% of its overall gap closed, is home to two of the top 10 climbers of the world since 2006: Nepal (110) and India (87). Nevertheless, progress in closing the economic gap has been negligible and it could take over 1,000 years to close the economic gender gap fully unless efforts are accelerated.

The lowest placed region – having closed 60% of its overall gender gap – is the Middle East and North Africa. With only Israel (49) in the global top 50, the next highest in the region are Qatar (119), Algeria (120), the United Arab Emirates (124). Like South Asia, progress in addressing economic inequalities has been too slow and will not be closed for a further 356 years at today’s rate. Nevertheless, it is home to some of the most improved nations since 2006 on economic participation, including Saudi Arabia (141), Bahrain (131) and Yemen (144).

“These forecasts are not foregone conclusions. Instead, they reflect the current state of progress and serve as a call to action to policy-makers and other stakeholders to double down on efforts to accelerate gender equality,” said Saadia Zahidi, Head of Education, Gender and Work, and Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum.

Methodology

The Global Gender Gap Index ranks 144 countries on the gap between women and men on health, education, economic and political indicators. It aims to understand whether countries are distributing their resources and opportunities equitably between women and men, irrespective of their overall income levels. The report measures the size of the gender inequality gap in four areas:

• Economic participation and opportunity – salaries, participation and leadership

• Education – access to basic and higher levels of education

• Political empowerment – representation in decision-making structures

• Health and survival – life expectancy and sex ratio

Index scores can be interpreted as the percentage of the gap that has been closed between women and men, and allow countries to compare their current performance relative to their past performance. In addition, the rankings allow for comparisons between countries. Thirteen out of the 14 variables used to create the index are from publicly available hard data indicators from international organizations such as the International Labour Organization, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Health Organization, and one comes from a perception survey conducted by the World Economic Forum.

In this year’s report, a key methodological change relates to the cap on the estimated earned income (raised from $40,000 to $75,000) to align with the UNDP’s new methodology and reflecting the change in income levels since the report’s inception in 2006.

System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Education, Gender and Work

In addition to benchmarking gender gaps through the Global Gender Gap Report series and other topical studies, the World Economic Forum’s System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Education, Gender and Work aims to ensure that talent is developed, nurtured and deployed for maximum benefit to the economy and society by mobilizing business, governments and civil society leaders to rethink education, close skills gaps, accelerate gender parity and boost employment.

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Energy News

Innovation and market reform needed to drive Japan’s clean energy transition

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Japan will need to move quickly to make headway on the steep emissions reductions that are required to achieve its recently announced ambition of reaching carbon-neutrality by 2050, the International Energy Agency said today in its latest in-depth review of the country’s energy policies.

Nearly a decade after the 2011 earthquake and the resulting Fukushima nuclear accident, Japan has made real progress towards developing a more efficient, resilient and sustainable energy system. It has embarked on major reforms of its energy market and diversified its energy mix. Energy-related CO2 emissions have fallen continuously since their peak in 2013, thanks to the expansion of renewable energy, the restart of some nuclear power plants and energy efficiency gains. By 2018, Japan’s emissions had declined to a level last seen in 2009. Reliance on fossil fuels has also declined but remains high at nearly 90% of energy supply, making Japan among the most carbon-intensive economies of IEA members. 

“Japan needs to accelerate the deployment of low-carbon technologies, remove regulatory barriers and increase competition in its energy markets if it is to reach carbon-neutrality by 2050. I welcome Japan’s new Green Growth Strategy that puts emphasis on these priorities. The IEA is committed to supporting the government in these vital efforts,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director, who launched the report today at an online event with Shin Hosaka, Commissioner of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy at Japan’s Ministry for Economy, Trade and Industry.

The new IEA report on Japan’s policies analyses its energy challenges and recommends possible solutions to help it achieve a secure, affordable and sustainable energy future. It finds that Japan has made important strides in reforming its domestic electricity and natural gas markets. The increasing competition in these sectors is encouraging, but further reform is needed to achieve a true level playing field for all market participants. Additional regulatory reforms will be important to encourage investments in zero-emissions electricity and to improve power system flexibility. The IEA also calls for policy makers to ensure that the market regulator has sufficient powers and independence.

The report highlights that Japan has seen continuous growth in renewables in the power sector, but that grid constraints have hampered investment in new projects and posed challenges to security of supply. Creating a well-integrated national grid and taking steps to improve the operational efficiency of the electricity system will facilitate the integration of more renewables while enhancing system resilience. The recent cold snap in January led to very low reserve margins in Japan’s electricity systems. This event provided a reminder of the importance of regional interconnections and the need to have sufficient generation capacity.    

The IEA welcomes the government’s recent announcement to phase out inefficient coal plants by 2030. This will further improve the already high efficiency of Japan’s thermal power fleet. Yet even efficient coal plants emit more CO2 than any other power generation source, and Japan ranks among the few IEA members that plan to add new coal capacity. Japan should tackle emissions from those new coal power plants by retrofitting, repurposing them as flexibility sources or able to use other fuels, or through other measures to help them avoid becoming stranded assets.

The IEA report highlights that Japan’s strong innovation and technology base can play a vital role in developing the technologies needed to achieve its 2050 energy and climate ambitions. “I applaud Japan for its leadership in advancing low-carbon hydrogen and carbon-recycling technologies, which will be crucial for decarbonising sectors where emissions are hardest to reduce, such as long-distance transport and heavy industry,” Dr Birol said.

Reducing the costs of these technologies will be essential to promote their deployment at scale. Stronger reliance on market-based instruments is an additional option for Japan to reduce emissions cost-effectively, foster innovation for low-carbon technologies and further increase Japan’s already high level of energy efficiency.

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Innovative finance mechanism to support Uruguay’s energy transition

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A joint UN proposal in Uruguay, with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) acting as lead agency, seconded by UNDP and UN Women, has been approved by the United Nations Joint Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Fund. This was announced today as part of a Joint SDG Fund US$41m portfolio to catalyze strategic financing to accelerate the Sustainable Development Goals.

Uruguay is one of four countries, and the only one in Latin America, to be selected for funding. The UNIDO-led proposal for Uruguay, along with ones from Fiji, Indonesia and Malawi, was selected from 155 proposals from over 100 country applicants across the globe.

The programme will establish a Renewable Energy Innovation Fund (REIF) to support Uruguay´s second energy transition, with the objectives of decarbonizing the economy and boosting competitiveness. The REIF will combat climate change by helping transition Uruguay’s transportation and industry sectors to green energy and by providing affordable access to innovative clean technologies.

The Joint SDG Fund will provide a grant of US$10m, leveraging around US$70m of co-financing from regional development banks and private commercial banks. The REIF will support cleantech financing in energy storage, smart grid, green hydrogen, electro-mobility and waste management/treatment technologies. 

Manuel Albaladejo, UNIDO Representative and the UN team leader designing the Uruguay proposal, stated, “This programme sets a precedent on how UNIDO should approach development cooperation in middle-income countries. Besides UNIDO´s well-known technical expertise, understanding and deploying innovative financing mechanisms to leverage co-funding from development finance institutions and even commercial banks will be key to UNIDO´s work. Indeed, the UN reform and the multilateral funds such as GEF and GCF emphasize the need to shift to impact investments that tap into private sector financing.”

Mireia Villar Forner, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Uruguay, said, “Thanks to the support of the Joint SDG Fund, the UN team is better equipped to support the alignment of private investments to the SDGs through the establishment of a national ecosystem for impact investment. Without a doubt, it changes the way we work.”

Omar Paganini, Uruguay’s Minister of Industry, Energy and Mining, said, “On behalf of the Ministry, we are very enthusiastic about the support received from the SDG Fund, which will be a great contribution to promote Uruguay´s second energy transition. The REIF is an innovative instrument that powers and deepens the impact of our public policies. We believe it will boost Uruguay´s efforts to achieve the SDGs.”

The Joint Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Fund is an innovative instrument to incentivize transformative policy shifts and stimulate the strategic investments required to get the world back on track to meet the SDGs. The UN Secretary-General sees the Joint SDG Fund as a key part of the reform of the UN’s development work by providing the “muscle” for a new generation of Resident Coordinators (RCs) and UN Country Teams (UNCTs) to really accelerate SDG implementation.

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Development

Japan Launches Circular Economy Collaboration with WEF

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Achieving a circular economy will require transforming policy and business. It will also require a new approach to collaboration.

To that end, theMinistry of the Environment, Japan (MOEJ) and Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) announced the launch of the Partnership on Circular Economy at this week’s Japan Circular Economy Roundtable hosted by the World Economic Forum.

This new partnership will bring leaders in business and government together to accelerate the circular economy in Japan. In this public-private partnership, best practices in Japan will be aggregated and disseminated to broader stakeholders within the supply chain, including consumers domestically and internationally. The partnership is expected to evolve through collaboration with the World Economic Forum’s Circular Economy Initiative.

The partnership will prompt dialogue between the public and private sector to identify focus areas, barriers and next actions towards the circular transition. The Forum will help shape the strategy and approach going forward.

Japan’s transformation will set a key example for other business and policy leaders. The country is one of the largest generators of plastic packaging waste per capita around the globe, according to the U.N. Environment program.

The Japanese government’s newly announced partnership builds on other recent initiatives to address plastics waste, such as a plastic bags charge. This year, the government also released guidance for companies to help accelerate sustainable finance and a Roadmap for Bioplastics Introduction (to promote substitution of fossil-based plastics with sustainable materials), and has drafted a new bill aimed at advancing plastic resource circulation.

“Japan is now accelerating ‘Three Transitions’ towards: a decarbonized society, a circular economy, and a decentralized society to redesign the socioeconomic system,” said Shinjiro Koizumi, Minister of the Environment, Japan.

The Roundtable – presented in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Japan – was organized by the World Economic Forum’s Circular Economy Initiative. The event, held 2-3 March, featured two days of high-level discussions exploring trends, policies and leading practices to scale circular economy ambitions.

The Roundtable was kicked off by a public livestreamed session that included the following speakers: Shinjirō Koizumi, Minister of the Environment, Japan; Stientje van Veldhoven, Minister of Environment Netherlands; Børge Brende, President and CEO, World Economic Forum; Naoko Ishii, The University of Tokyo; Masayuki Waga, CEO Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation; Tsutomu Sugimori, Vice Chair Keidanren (Japan Business Federation).

Creating a circular economy for electronics was a key area of focus at the Roundtable. That sector kept economies running during the pandemic, but as World Economic Forum research has shown, it’s also the fastest-growing waste stream. Around 54 million metric tonnes of electric waste are generated globally, with countries such as Japan, the US and China among the top five contributors.

To create new ways to manage production and consumption, the event also showcased how countries in the ASEAN region and beyond are leveraging Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies. Forum initiative Scale360°, a scalable partnership model helping diverse collaborators drive circular innovation, was one of many solutions discussed.

Speakers also shared how new actions – aided by policy – were speeding the circular transition. “Government leaders are showing how new policies, collaborations and commitments can make a dramatic impact,” said Antonia Gawel, Head of Circular Economy & Innovation at the World Economic Forum. “Circularity is critical to achieving net-zero decarbonization and protecting the climate for future generations. Time is of the essence.”

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