Frequently Asked Questions - Gender Inequality Index (GII)

There is no country with perfect gender equality – hence all countries suffer some loss in their HDI achievement when gender inequality is taken into account, through use of the GII metric. The Gender Inequality Index is similar in method to the Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI). It can be interpreted as a percentage loss to potential human development due to shortfalls in the dimensions included. Since the Gender Inequality Index includes different dimensions than the HDI, it cannot be interpreted as a loss in HDI itself. Unlike the HDI, higher GII values indicate lower achievement. The world average score on the GII is 0.463, reflecting a percentage loss in achievement across the three dimensions due to gender inequality of 46.3%. Regional averages range from 28.0% in Europe and Central Asia, to nearly 58% in Sub-Saharan Africa. At the country level losses due to gender inequality range from 4.5% in the Netherlands, to 74.7% in Yemen. Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and the Arab States suffer the largest losses due to gender inequality (57.7%, 56.8% and 55.5% respectively).

The Gender Inequality Index faces major data limitations, which constrains the choice of indicators. For
example, we use national parliamentary representation that excludes participation at the local
government level and elsewhere in community and public life. The labour market dimension lacks
information on incomes, employment and on unpaid work mostly done by women. The Index misses
other important dimensions, such as time use – the fact that many women have the additional burden of
care giving and housekeeping, which cut into leisure time and increase stress and physical exhaustion.
Asset ownership, gender-based violence and participation in community decision-making are also not
captured, mainly due to limited data availability.

The Gender Inequality Index relies on data from major publicly available databases, including the
maternal mortality ratio from the United Nations Maternal Mortality Estimation Group (MMEIG), the WHO,
UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank; adolescent fertility rates from the UN Department of Economic and
Social Affair’s World Population Prospects; educational attainment statistics from the UNESCO Institute
for Statistics educational attainment tables and the Barro-Lee data sets; parliamentary representation
from the International Parliamentary Union; and labour market participation from the International Labour
Organization’s Key Indicators of the Labour Market (KILM) 7th Edition.

It is true that reproductive health indicators used in the Gender Inequality Index do not have equivalent
indicators for men. So in this dimension, the reproductive health of girls and women is compared to what
should be societal goals—no maternal death, and no adolescent pregnancy. The rationale is that safe motherhood reflects the importance society attaches to women’s reproductive role. Early childbearing, as
measured by the adolescent fertility rate, is associated with greater health risks for mothers and infants;
also, adolescent mothers often are forced out of school and into low-skilled jobs.

Only 3 out of 148 countries included in the GII have female shares of parliamentary seats equal to zero.
We replaced the zero value with 0.1% to make the computation possible. The rationale is that while
women may not be represented in parliament, they do have some political influence. The relative rank of
these countries is sensitive to the choice of the replacement value. The lowest observed non-zero female
parliamentary representation was 0.7% for Yemen.

No, there has been no change in calculation. As in 2011, maternal mortality ratio enters the Gender
Inequality Index truncated at 10 which affects the range of Gender Inequality Index values which
theoretically should be between 0 and 1. This is corrected by normalizing the maternal mortality ratio by
10. This intervention generally reduced the values of the Gender Inequality Index. To facilitate the
comparison a trend of the Gender Inequality Index based on consistent time series data has been

The introduction in 1995 of the Gender-related Development Index (GDI) and the Gender Empowerment
Measure (GEM) coincided with growing international recognition of the importance of monitoring progress
in the elimination of gender gaps in all aspects of life. While the GDI and the GEM have contributed
immensely to the gender debate, they have conceptual and methodological limitations. The Gender
Inequality Index was introduced as an experimental index in 2010 as part of the 20th anniversary edition of
the Human Development Report. Just as the HDI continues to evolve, the Gender Inequality Index will
also evolve as and when data becomes available.
The GDI was not a measure of gender inequality: it was the HDI adjusted for gender disparities in its
basic components and cannot be interpreted independently of the HDI. The difference between the HDI
and the GDI appears to be small because the differences captured in the three dimensions tend to be
small, giving a misleading impression that gender gaps are irrelevant. In addition, gender-disaggregated
incomes have to be estimated in a very crude way using not so realistic assumptions due to the lack of
income data by gender for over three-fourths of countries.
Both the GDI and GEM combined relative and absolute achievements. The earned income component
uses both—the income level and the gender-disaggregated income shares. However, income levels tend
to dominate the indices, and as a result, countries with low income levels cannot achieve a high score
even with perfect gender equality in the distribution of earnings and other components of the indices.
Nearly all of the GEM indicators reflect an elite bias, making the measure more relevant for developed
countries and urban areas in developing countries.
The Gender Inequality Index introduces methodological improvements and alternative indicators. It
measures inequality between genders in three dimensions, with carefully chosen indicators to reflect
women’s reproductive health status, their empowerment and labour market participation relative to men’s.
The Gender Inequality Index combines elements of the GDI and the GEM. Income, the most controversial
component of the GDI and GEM, is not a component of the Gender Inequality Index. Moreover, the new
Index does not allow high achievement in one dimension to compensate for low achievement in another

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index (GGI), released on November 1, 2011, differs
from the Human Development Report’s GII in many ways. First, the dimensions and indicators are
different. Second, the GGI measures gender gaps without taking into consideration a country’s level of
development. In contrast, the GII shows the loss to potential achievement in a country due to gender
inequality across reproductive health, empowerment and labour market participation. The Economist
Intelligence Unit’s Women’s Economic Opportunity Index (WEOI) is also different in that it focusses on
laws and regulations about women’s participation in the labour market and social institutions that affect
women’s economic participation. It has five dimensions – labour policies and practice, women’s economic
opportunity, access to finance, education and training, women’s legal and social status, and general
business environment. Each category or sub-category has four to five indicators. Like the OECD’s Social
Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI), the WEOI complements the GII by helping us understand the
underlying causes of gender inequalities in economic participation.

The Gender Inequality Index provides insights into gender disparities in health, empowerment and labour
market in 148 countries. It can be useful to help governments and others understand the ramifications of
gaps between women and men. The Gender Inequality Index, as any other global composite index, is
constrained by the need for international comparability. But it could be readily adapted for use at the
national or local level.