And the World’s Most Gender Equal Country Is….

The Netherlands!  At least, that is according to the 2010 Human Development Report. The HDR, as it known, is an annual report that includes social (rather than strictly economic) measurements to rank countries by their “Human Development.”  Indicators like literacy rates, life expectancy, and per capita income are churned through statistical models to produce a ranking of countries, called the Human Development Index.

The UN Development Program has been running this exercise since 1991. But this is the first time that they crunched data specifically pertaining to gender inequality. The new Gender Inequality Index uses five indicators — maternal mortality, adolescent fertility, parliamentary representation, educational attainment, and labor force participation —  to rank countries. The Netherlands comes out on top, followed closely by Denmark and Sweden.   The United States ranks down at 37.  Though it scores well on labor force participation and educational attainment, a relatively high maternal mortality (11/100,000 live births) and really high adolescent fertility rate brings USA’s average down.  It’s ranked just above Bulgaria.

In the meantime, on the lower end of the spectrum are some of the usual suspects.  DR Congo, Niger, and Yemen bring up the rear.  Saudi Arabia, which otherwise is considered a “high human development” country (number 55 overall), ranks an abysmal 128 on the Gender Equality Index.

The idea behind ranking countries by their human (as opposed to economic) development is to spur countries to move up the latter by making social investments.  Now that Gender Inequality is included in the mix, hopefully countries will want to make the necessary policy adjustments to bump up in the rankings.  It’s a long process. But at least we now have a good idea of where countries stand in relation to each other.

Here’s the full index:
Gender Equality Index