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Gender Inequality Index

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Gender Inequality Index

The Gender Inequality Index (GII) is an index for measurement of gender disparity that was introduced in the 2010 Human Development Report 20th anniversary edition by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). According to the UNDP, this index is a composite measure which captures the loss of achievement within a country due to gender inequality. It uses three dimensions to do so: reproductive health, empowerment, and labor market participation.

The new index was introduced as an experimental measure to remedy the shortcomings of the previous indicators, the Gender Development Index (GDI) and the Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM), both of which were introduced in the 1995 Human Development Report.


  • Origins 1
  • Dimensions 2
    • Reproductive health 2.1
    • Empowerment 2.2
    • Labor market participation 2.3
  • Calculations 3
    • Changes in 2011 calculations 3.1
  • Loss due to gender inequality 4
    • Top ten countries 4.1
    • Bottom ten countries 4.2
  • Critique 5
    • Complexity 5.1
    • Mix of indices 5.2
    • Regional relevance 5.3
    • Choice of variables 5.4
  • See also 6
  • References 7


The Gender-related Development Index (GDI) and the Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) were introduced in the 1995 Human Development Report with growing international recognition for the importance of eliminating gender inequality. The GDI and GEM became the primary indices for measuring global gender inequality for the United Nations Human Development Reports. The GDI and GEM faced much criticism for their methodological and conceptual limitations.[1][2]

Beneria and Permanyer have explained that the GDI and GEM are not measurements of gender inequality in and of themselves. The GDI is a composite index which measures development within a country then negatively corrects for gender inequality; and the GEM measures the access women have to attaining means of power in economics, politics, and making decisions. Both of which Beneria and Permanyer claim are inaccurate in clearly capturing gender inequality.[3] According to the UNDP, the GDI was criticized for its inability to accurately measure gender inequality for its components being to closely related to the Human Development Index (HDI), a composite measure of human development used by the UNDP.[4]

Thus, the differences between the HDI and GDI were small leading to the implication that gender disparities were irrelevant to human development. The UNDP also claims that both the GDI and GEM were criticized because income levels had a tendency to dominate the earned income component, which resulted in countries with low income levels not being able to get high scores, even in cases where their levels of gender inequality may have been low. The GEM indicators proved to be more relevant to developed countries than less-developed countries. With international growing concern for gender equality, the participants of the World Economic Forum in 2007, among others, recognized that the advancement of women was a significant issue that impacted the growth of nations.[5]

As of 2006, the World Economic Forum has been using the Gender Gap Index (GGI) in its Global Gender Gap Reports, which ranks countries according to their gender gaps, in an attempt to better capture gender disparities.[6] Beneria and Permanyer criticize the GGI for only capturing inequality in certain aspects of women's lives therefore making it an incomplete measure of gender inequality.[3]

Given the amount of criticism the GDI and GEM were facing, the UNDP felt that these indices did not fully capture the disparities women faced. In an attempt to reform the GDI and GEM, the UNDP introduced the Gender Inequality Index (GII) in the 2010 Human Development Report.[4] The new index is a composite measure which, according to the UNDP, captures the loss of achievement due to gender inequality using three dimensions: reproductive health, empowerment, and labor market participation. The GII does not include income levels as a component, which was one of the most controversial components of the GDI and GEM. It also does not allow for high achievements in one dimension to compensate for low achievement in another.[4]


There are three critical dimensions to the GII: reproductive health, empowerment, and labor market participation. The dimensions are captured in one synthetic index, as to account for joint significance. According to the UNDP, none of the measures in the dimensions pertain to the country's development and therefore a less-developed country can perform well if gender inequality is low. The UNDP considers the dimensions complementary in that inequality in one dimension tends to affect inequality in another. Therefore, the GII captures association across dimensions, making the index association-sensitive, and ensuring that high achievement in one dimension does not compensate for low achievement in another dimension.[7]

Reproductive health

Permanyer notes that the GII is a pioneering index, in that it is the first index to include reproductive health indicators as a measurement for gender inequality.[2] The GII's dimension of reproductive health have two indicators: the Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR),the data for which come from UNICEF's State of the World's Children, and the adolescent fertility rate (AFR), the data for which is obtained through the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs, respectively. With a low MMR, it is implied that pregnant women have access to adequate health needs, therefore the MMR is a good measure of women's access to health care. The UNDP expresses that women's health during pregnancy and childbearing is a clear sign of women's status in society.[7]

A high AFR, which measures early childbearing, results in health risks for mothers and infants as well as a lack of higher education attainment. According to the UNDP data, reproductive health accounts for the largest loss due to gender inequality, among all regions.[7]


The empowerment dimension is measured by two indicators: the share of parliamentary seats held by each sex, which is obtained from the

  1. ^ a b Bardhan, K., and Klasen, S.(1999).UNDP's Gender-Related Indices: A Critical Review, World Development, 27:6, pp.985-1010
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Permanyer, I.,(2011). Are UNDP Indices Appropriate to Capture Gender Inequalities in Europe?, Social Indicators Research, pp. 1-24
  3. ^ a b Beneria, L., Permanyer, I.,(2010).The Measurement of Socio-economic Gender Inequality Revisited, Development and Change, 41:3, pp.375-399
  4. ^ a b c d United Nations Development Programme,(2011).Gender Inequality Index FAQ
  5. ^ a b c Ferrant, G., (2010). The Gender Inequalities Index (GII) as a New Way to Measure Gender Inequalities in Developing Countries, SciencesNew York, pp.106-112
  6. ^ Hausmann, R., Tyson, L.D., Zahidi, S., (2006). "The Global Gender Gap Report 2006", World Economic Forum, Geneva, Switzerland
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 2010; The Real Wealth of Nations, 2010
  8. ^ a b c United Nations Development Programme, Gender Inequality Index FAQ's, 2011
  9. ^ a b Hill and King, Women's Education and Economic Well-Being, Feminist Economics, 1995
  10. ^ a b c United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 2011; Sustainability and Equity, 2011
  11. ^ a b "Table 4 Gender Inequality Index 2012". United Nations Development Programme. Retrieved 16 January 2014. 
  12. ^ a b c d Klasen and Schüler,Reforming the Gender-Related Development Index and the Gender Empowerment Measure: Implementing Some Specific Proposals, Feminist Economics, 17:1, 2011.


See also

Klasen and Schüler briefly criticize the GII for its failure to capture the informal work and unpaid domestic or care work where women are primarily over-represented. In many underdeveloped societies women and girls spend the majority of their time in domestic work whereas men and boys spend far less, if any.[9] Therefore, the if the GII lacks the capturing of the time women spend in unpaid labor, it is insufficient in capturing the true global disparities of women.[12]

Choice of variables

Permanyer also criticizes the GII for whether or not its assessment of gender inequality, and uses of the same set of indicators, are equally relevant or meaningful across all regions of the Globe. For less-developed countries the use of the MMR and AFR in the dimension of reproductive health may be penalizing although the loss may not be entirely explained by gender inequality.[2] Less-developed countries performance in the reproductive health dimension may differ regionally or locally. Access to or use of health services can be influenced by socio-economic levels, public health policies, or social and cultural practices. In developed countries, specifically European countries, gender inequality levels are not very "robust to alternative specifications of gender-related indicators" and analysts and policy makers may choose specific methods to yield desired results.[2]

Regional relevance

Consider a hypothetical country with PRf = PRm, SEf = SEm, LFPRf = LFPRm and with the lowest MMR and AFR observed in the sample of countries for which data is available (MMR = 10, AFR = 3.8). In that case, that hypothetical country would have a GII value well above 0 (GII aprx 0.15).[2]

Both Klausen and Schüler as well as Permanyer argue that the GII mixes indices in a few ways which furthers the complexity and poses other issues.The measurement combines well-being and empowerment which becomes problematic in that it increases the complexity, lacks transparency, and suffers from the problem of using an arithmetic means of ratios.[2][12] Permanyer argues that it also combines two different, absolute and relative, indicators within the same formula. For example if the MMR is higher than 10 per 100,000 it is considered inequality. Yet, parliamentary representation is only considered inequality if there is a deviation from 50 percent. Therefore if women and men fare equally in all dimensions the GII would not equal a zero value as it should. Permanyer gives an example for this problem:

Mix of indices

Klasen and Schüler claim that the GII is meant to represent a loss of human development, but the standard against which the losses are measured is not stated anywhere, unlike the GDI where the losses were measured against the HDI, making the HDI represent perfect equality.[12] The UNDP explains that the complexity of the calculations are needed in order to maintain an association-sensitive measure, but Permanyer argues that alternative indices that are much less complex have also shown to be association sensitive.[2]

Klasen and Schüler as well as Permanyer argue that the complexity of the GII will make it difficult to interpret or understand for the professionals who would likely want to make use of it because so many non-linear procedures are applied to the data.[2][12] Permanyer believes that simplicity is required in order for analysts, policy-makers, or practitioners to convey a clear message to the general public.[2]


Although the GII is a new index which has only been in use since 2010, there are some criticisms to the GII as a global measurement of gender inequality. The GII may inadequately capture gender inequality and leave out important aspects or include unnecessary dimensions. The GII is a complex indicator with many components that are difficult for some to interpret or calculate.


Country GII Ranking 2012 GII Value 2012 HDI Rank 2012 GII Rank 2011 GII Value 2011 GII Rank 2008 GII Value 2008
Yemen 148 0.747 160 -- -- -- --
Afghanistan 147 0.712 175 141 0.717 134 0.797
Niger 146 0.707 186 144 0.724 136 0.807
Saudi Arabia 145 0.682 57 -- -- -- --
Congo 144 0.681 186 142 0.710 1690 0.814
Liberia 143 0.658 174 139 0.671 131 0.766
Central African Republic 142 0.654 180 138 0.669 132 0.768
Mali 141 0.649 182 143 0.712 135 0.799
Sierra Leone 139 0.643 177 137 0.662 125 0.756
Mauritania 139 0.643 155 -- -- --

The ten lowest ranked countries in terms of gender equality according to the GII for 2008,[7] 2011,[10] and 2012.[11]

Bottom ten countries

Country GII Rank 2012 GII Value 2012 HDI Rank 2012 GII Rank 2011 GII Value 2011 GII Rank 2008 GII Value 2008
Netherlands 1 0.045 4 2 0.052 1 0.174
Sweden 2 0.055 7 1 0.049 3 0.212
Denmark 3 0.057 15 3 0.060 2 0.209
Switzerland 3 0.057 9 4 0.067 4 0.228
Norway 5 0.065 1 6 0.075 5 0.234
Finland 6 0.075 21 5 0.075 8 0.248
Germany 6 0.075 5 7 0.085 7 0.240
Slovenia 8 0.08 21 * * * *
France 9 0.083 20 10 0.106 11 0.260
Iceland 10 0.089 13 9 0.099 13 0.279

The ten highest ranked countries in terms of gender equality according to the GII for 2008,[7] 2011,[10] and 2012.[11]

Top ten countries

As there is no country with perfect gender equality; all countries suffer some loss of human development due to gender inequality. The difference in dimensions used in the GII and HDI means that the GII is not interpreted as a loss of HDI, but has its own rank and value separate from the HDI.[4] The GII is interpreted as a percentage and indicates the percentage of potential human development lost due to gender inequality. The world average GII score in 2011 was 0.492 which indicates a 49.2% loss in potential human development due to gender inequality.[8] Due to the limitations of data and data quality the 2010 Human Development Report calculated GII rankings of 138 countries for the year 2008. The 2011 Human Development Report was able to calculate the GII rankings of 146 countries for the reporting year 2011.[10]

Loss due to gender inequality

According to the UNDP there was a minor calculation change to the 2011 Gender Inequality Index from the 2010 index used. The maternal mortality ratio was calculated in the Gender Inequality Index at 10 even though the range of GII values should be between 0 and 1. To correct this the maternal mortality ratio is normalized by 10, which generally reduced the values of the GII. A trend for the GII has been calculated and can be found on the Human Development Reports website.

Changes in 2011 calculations

Step 5: Calculating the Gender Inequality Index: To compute the GII compare the equally distributed gender index from Step 3 to the reference standard from Step 4.

Reproductive health is not an average of female and male indices but half the distance from the norms established

Step 4: Calculating the geometric mean of the arithmetic means for each indicator: Obtain the reference standard by aggregating female and male indices with equal weight, and then aggregating indices across dimensions.

Step 3: Aggregating across gender groups, using a harmonic mean: To compute the equally distributed gender index the female and male indices are aggregated by the harmonic mean of the geometric means to capture the inequality between females and males and adjust for association between dimensions.

Step 2: Aggregating across dimensions within each gender group, using geometric means: Aggregating across dimensions for each gender group by the geometric mean makes the GII association-sensitive.[7] The maternal mortality rate and the adolescent fertility rate are only relevant for females the males are only aggregated with the other two dimensions.

Step 1: Treating zeros and extreme values: The maternal mortality rate is truncated systematically at minimum of 10 and maximum of 1,000. The maximum and minimum is based on the normative assumption that all countries with maternal mortality ratio's above 1,000 do not differ in their ability to support for maternal health as well as the assumption that all countries below 10 do not differ in their abilities. Countries with parliamentary representation reporting at 0 are counted as 0.1 because of the assumption that women have some level of political influence and that the geometric mean can not have a 0 value.

The GII is an association-sensitive, responsive to distributional changes across dimension,[2] composite index used to rank the loss of development through gender inequality within a country.[7] The GII measures inequalities by addressing the shortcomings of other measures through aggregate strategy using multiple correspondence analysis (MCA) in order to avoid aggregation problems.[5] There are five steps to computing the gender inequality Index.[7]

The metrics of the GII are similar in calculations to the Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI), which was also introduced in the 2010 Human Development Report, and can be interpreted as a percentage loss of human development due to shortcomings in the included dimensions. The value of GII range between 0 to 1, with 0 being 0% inequality, indicating women fare equally in comparison to men and 1 being 100% inequality, indicating women fare poorly in comparison to men. There is a correlation between GII ranks and human development distribution, according to the UNDP countries that exhibit high gender inequality also show inequality in distribution of development, and vice versa.[7]


[1] In the absence of reliable earned income data across countries, the UNDP considers labor market participation a suitable substitute for economic aspects of gender inequality.[8] The labor market dimension is measured by women's participation in the

Labor market participation

There is much literature that finds women's access to education may reduce the AFR and child mortality rates within a country.[5][9] Due to data limitations the parliament representation indicator is limited to national parliament and excludes local government or other community involvement. Although women's representation in parliament has been increasing women have been disadvantaged in representation of parliament with a global average of only 16%.[7]

[7] The GII index of higher education evaluates women's attainment to secondary education and above. Access to higher education expands women's freedom by increasing their ability to question and increases their access to information which expands their public involvement.[8]

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