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The best countries for women to live and work in around the world

·4-min read
The best countries for women to live and work around the world
Iceland takes the top spot, with 52.8% of women achieving tertiary education and receiving full marks in the World Bank’s Women, Business and Law Index 2021. Photo: Getty

Iceland is the best country in the world for women to live and work, according to a new ranking by William Russell.

The research scored Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries on a range of factors to come up with the ranking, including the gender pay gap, the proportion of women who achieve tertiary education, the length of paid maternity leave and female representation in government. 

Iceland takes the top spot, with 52.8% of women achieving tertiary education and receiving full marks in the World Bank’s Women, Business and Law Index 2021, a study measuring the laws and regulations that affect women’s economic opportunity.

Finland comes in second place, scoring highly on female representation in government. Half of all ministerial positions are occupied by women and It has had four different female leaders of the country.

Ireland is at number three on the list with a relatively low gender wage gap of 7.99% and 182 days of paid maternity leave for new mothers. The Emerald Isle also scored top marks in the World Bank’s Women, Business and Law Index.

Belgium is at number four, followed by Denmark, Canada, France, and Norway.

Read more: Two in five working mothers feel held back for promotion

The worst country for women to live and work is Japan, according to William Russell's ranking. Despite over 50% of women gaining tertiary education, the country has a high gender wage gap of 23.48% and representation of women in government is very low, at only 10%.

Turkey was second to last on the list with only 19.7% of women attaining tertiary level education. It also came last in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index.

Mexico was the third-lowest ranking country. Just 17.2% of women have participated in higher education and the country has also never had a female leader of government, despite 42.11% of ministerial positions being filled by women.

Chile was fourth-lowest, followed by South Korea, Colombia, the US, and Israel.

Despite coming sixth-lowest on the list, Colombia is the country with the smallest gender pay gap, at just 4%. Luxembourg is in second place with a 4.14% wage gap, followed by Belgium with 4.19%, Costa Rica (4.73%), Denmark (4.86%), and Norway (4.99%).

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The average gender wage gap around the world is 12.28%. The UK is higher than average with a pay gap of 16.01%.

Slovakia gives working women the most days of paid maternity leave, at 238 days. The Czech Republic is second with 196, followed by Ireland (182), Hungary (168), Italy (150), and Finland (147).

The average length of paid maternity leave is 103.6 days. The UK gives new mothers less than half of that with just 42 days.

Israel is the country with the highest rate of tertiary education, at 88%, followed by Canada (64.4%), Finland (53.1%), Japan (52.8%), Iceland (52.8%) and Estonia (51.2%).

Some 47.7% of women in the UK receive tertiary education. The global average for women achieving tertiary education is 40.7%.

"Supporting women into education is an integral part of levelling the playing field in terms of job prospects between the sexes, and encourages women to break out of the traditional roles that society might have once assigned them simply due to their gender," the report said.

Read more: How maternity leave stigma is undermining women's careers

"Higher education encourages women to aim for more influential positions, to question oppressive societal norms, and to take a more active role in decision making, all of which aid the empowerment and equality of women in general."

The report also looked at the countries with the lowest rates of teenage pregnancy, regarding this as an indicator of a society that looks after the health and wellbeing of its young women. South Korea had the lowest rate of teen pregnancy, followed by Switzerland, Slovenia, Japan and the Netherlands.

Watch: Why do we still have a gender pay gap?

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