World Population data 2015

Focus on Women's Empowerment

Every year, Population Reference Bureau (PRB) provides the latest demographic data for the world, global regions, and more than 200 countries. This year’s data include indicators on the status of women in key areas such as education, employment, and government. Looking at the numbers across the world, we can get a picture of women’s progress towards equality.

View the latest world population data from the Population Reference Bureau (PRB)


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Women’s empowerment and gender equality are priorities on the global development agenda. They featured prominently in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the blueprint adopted by United Nations member countries in 2000 to reduce extreme poverty worldwide. The MDGs recognized the central role of women in improving quality of life for everyone.

With the expiration of the MDGs in 2015, and a new set of Sustainable Development Goals poised to guide countries through 2030, we look at women’s empowerment data and other sources to assess women’s progress in the key areas of education, employment, and government.

How close is the world to achieving gender equality?

Education

2015 update: % Enrolled in Secondary School*

female

49%
Africa
54%
76%
World
78%
77%
Asia
78%
92%
LAC
87%
95%
North America
96%
98%
Oceania
106%
108%
Europe
109%

male

Education is a critical pathway out of poverty—for girls and women, its benefits are substantial. Many studies show that when girls stay in school, it can help delay early marriage and childbearing, reduce child and maternal deaths, improve child health, and boost women’s earning power. On a larger scale, educating women increases a country’s competitiveness.

Progress has been made on achieving gender parity at both the primary and secondary school levels. Viewed globally, and in most world regions, secondary school enrollment rates are close to parity already. Africa is an exception: female enrollment rates are lower than male rates in 32 of 43 countries and territories tracked by PRB where data are available. Another challenge is keeping girls in school once they are enrolled, particularly at higher levels, where girls may struggle with cultural norms that keep them at home, violence in transit to school, or lack of money to pay for school.

*The figures show the gross enrollment ratio, which can exceed 100 percent when the number of students currently enrolled exceeds the population of the relevant age group. This can occur, for example, if there are students from other age groups enrolled in secondary school.

Employment

2015 update: % NONAGRICULTURAL WAGE EARNERS WHO ARE WOMEN

Asia
25%
Africa
30%
World
34%
LAC
44%
Oceania
47%
Europe
48%
North America
48%

Women’s share of nonagricultural wage employment is a widely used gauge of their access to paid work and, by extension, their ability to participate in the formal economy. Nonagricultural jobs are often higher status, more secure, and better paid than farm jobs.

Gender gaps in employment persist in many countries around the world. Of 143 countries and territories where data are available, women's share of nonagricultural employment is below parity with men in all but 26. Even in many of the most developed countries, women’s share still lags somewhat behind. For example, women account for 43 percent of nonagricultural wage employment in both Japan and South Korea, and 46 percent in Italy.

Highest rates Lowest rates
% Nonagricultural Wage Earners Who Are Women
country %
MOLDOVA 55
GUADELOUPE 54
Latvia 53
Lithuania 53
SEYCHELLES 53
BAHAMAS 52
BARBADOS 52
CYPRUS 52
ESTONIA 52
FINLAND 52
IRELAND 52
country %
IRAQ 12
YEMEN 12
PAKISTAN 13
QATAR 13
SAUDI ARABIA 14
IRAN 15
JORDAN 16
PALESTINIAN TERRITORY 16
SYRIA 16

Government

2015 update: % Parliamentarians who are women

Asia
18%
World
20%
Africa
21%
North America
21%
LAC
23%
Europe
25%
Oceania
25%

Women’s participation in government gives them a direct say in the policies, laws, and regulations that affect their lives. The total number of women in national parliaments (or equivalent legislative bodies) has almost doubled in the last 20 years, according to UN Women. Still, women’s share of seats remains relatively low.

Experts cite 30 percent as a minimum threshold for women having a meaningful share of national legislative seats. Even many developed countries, including the United States, Singapore, and France, have not reached this level. Meanwhile, quota systems have bolstered women’s leadership in many countries.

Highest rates Lowest rates
% Parliamentarians Who Are Women
country %
RWANDA 58
BOLIVIA 52
CUBA 49
SEYCHELLES 44
SWEDEN 44
SENEGAL 43
BELGIUM 42
ECUADOR 42
FINLAND 42
country %
FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA 0
QATAR 0
TONGA 0
VANUATU 0
YEMEN 0
KUWAIT 2
SOLOMON ISLANDS 2

sources


Dashboard

PRB 2015 World Population Data Sheet

Estimates of mid-2015 global, regional, and national populations are based on a recent census, official national data, or PRB, UN, and U.S. Census Bureau projections. The effects of refugee movements, large numbers of foreign workers, and population shifts due to contemporary political events are taken into account to the extent possible.

Projected global, regional, and national populations are based on reasonable assumptions on the future course of fertility, mortality, and migration. Projections are based on official country projections, series issued by the UN or the U.S. Census Bureau, or PRB projections.

Data for women’s empowerment indicators are from the latest survey year available: use of modern contraception (national-level surveys and the UN Population Division), enrollment in secondary school (UNESCO), nonagricultural wage employment (UN), and parliament members who are women (The Inter-Parliamentary Union). Data availability varies by country.

Insights

Institute for Inclusive Security, How Women Rebuilt Rwanda (April 2014).

International Labour Organization (ILO), ILO Country Statistics on Labor Force Participation Rates (2012).

Maarten van Klaveren et al., “An Overview of Women’s Work and Employment in Mozambique,Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies, Working Paper 09-77 (December 2009).

PRB, “The Effect of Girls' Education on Health Outcomes: Fact Sheet” (August 2011).

UNESCO, Education for All 2015 Global Monitoring Report (April 2015).

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), The Millennium Development Goals Report 2015 (July 2015).

UN Women, “Facts and Figures: Leadership and Political Participation” (February 2015).

World Economic Forum, The Global Gender Gap Report 2014 (October 2014).

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