Happy International Women’s Day!

To celebrate International Women’s Day, here are some (perhaps) surprising facts about women in today’s world.

The best place to be a woman

It’s Iceland, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report for 2012. The country has claimed the top spot in the report since 2009. Finland, Norway and Sweden round out the top four. (Canada fell three spots to land in 21st place out of 135 countries, one above the United States. What hurts us: the lack of female politicians. The good news: Take a look at the premiers of British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador and Nunavut.)

Country with the smallest gender wage gap

Egypt, where the World Economic Forum says the gender wage gap is 18 cents – so women can expect to earn 82 cents for every dollar a man gets.

(Canadian women, by comparison, can expect to earn about 73 cents, placing us 35th in the ranking.)

Country with the most female politicians

Rwanda. In the African country, as of February, women held 45 of the 80 seats in Parliament. By comparison, in Canada, which ranks 45th in the Inter-Parliamentary Union study, men outnumber women in Parliament by a ratio of 3 to 1. When it comes to women in ministerial positions, that ratio also holds (27 per cent female to 73 per cent male).

Country where women live the longest

Japan, where women can expect to live 87 years, compared with 79.2 for men in the country. In Canada, the average life expectancy for women is 82.8 years – nearly five years longer than men. In Afghanistan and Lesotho, the average girl won’t live to see her 50th birthday.

Country most friendly to female billionaires

China. According to a recent Forbes study, the Asian nation has a “uniquely high” number of self-made women among its richest citizens – a trend the report credits, in part, to communism, which forced gender equality, and created an attitude shift that guides business today.

Best country to pass off the vacuuming to the man in the house

Denmark. According to a study by the OECD, women in the Scandanavian country (with the lucky female citizens of Sweden, Norway and Finland following closely) do only about 50 minutes more of unpaid labour a day than men. Compare that to women in India, who are doing five hours more a day of unpaid labour than their male counterparts. The significant gender gap is partly because Indian women have less access to paid work, but the study also noted that, “Indian men also spend considerably more time sleeping, eating, talking to friends, watching TV and relaxing.”

Country with most women in the work force

Burundi. According the World Economic Forum, 92 per cent of female citizens in Burundi have paid work – compared with 88 per cent of men. Canada ranks 20th. Pakistan scored the lowest on this measure: In that country, men in paying jobs outnumber women 4 to 1.

Top country for women in positions of power

Jamaica, where there are more women than men serving as legislators, officials or managers (59 per cent vs. 41 per cent, according to the World Economic Forum). Canadian reality check: We rank 31st, with 36 per cent women vs. 64 per cent men.

Best place to be a female engineer

Estonia. In this country, which offers significant tuition incentives to draw high-school graduates into fields such as engineering, female professional and technical workers outnumber men two to one – 68 per cent compared to 32 per cent, according to the World Economic Forum. Women make up 57 per cent of Canada’s professional and technical workers.

Safest place to have a baby

Estonia. According to country comparisons published by the CIA World Factbook, the maternal mortality rate, which includes death during pregnancy, childbirth, or 42 days after ending a pregnancy, in Estonia is two deaths for every 100,000 births. In Canada, the rate is 12 in 100,000 – the same as the U.K. and Denmark. In Chad, the most dangerous country, the rate is 1,100 in 100,000 live births.

Best place to stay at home with your kids

Germany. German mothers get 14 weeks off at 100 per cent of their wages. They collect a parental allowance of 67 per cent of their wages for 14 months, and both parents have the option of three years of parental leave in total. (In Canada, parents may take 52 weeks of maternity leave in total, receiving the equivalent of EI for that period.)

Country with the most female Nobel laureates

The United States. In related news, the U.S. can also claim to the most Miss Universe titles. Guess which achievement gets the most attention? (Also, all of Canada’s 21 Nobel prize winners have been men.)

Best place to buy your daughter a celebrity magazine

Israel. Last year, Israel banned the use of underweight models in local advertising, and passed a law requiring publications to disclose when models have been edited to appear thinner than they really are.

Country with the lowest rates of domestic violence

Georgia. According to a United Nations study in March of 2011, the lifetime prevalence of sexual or physical abuse against a woman in Georgia is 5 per cent. Canada comes second in a list of 86 countries, at 7 per cent. In Ethiopia, the rates of violence against women by a partner is horrifically high: 71 per cent of women are physically or sexually abused over the course of their lives. According to the study, in the last 12 months that the statistics were recorded, 44 per cent of Ethiopian women suffered sexual abuse. The World Bank took a closer look at reasons why women reported the abuse happened. In Niger, according to a 2006 survey, 44 per cent of women said they were beaten for burning dinner. In 2008, 41 per cent of women in Sierra Leone said they were beaten by their husbands for refusing to have sex.

The land where women stay single the longest

French Polynesia. According to data collected by the World Bank, Polynesian women don’t get married, on average, until the age of 33. There were no figures available for many countries, but in both Mali and Niger, a typical girl can expect to be married before her 18th birthday. In most industrialized nations, of course, the age of first marriage keeps going up. In Canada, the average women ties the knot at 29.

Top country to be a single mother

Norway. A Unicef study found that in the Scandanavian country, only 4.1 per cent of children in single-parent families were deprived of quality of life measures, including being able to heat their homes properly, being able to afford a meal with meat every second day, and manage unexpected expenses. The study placed Romania last.

Source: Erin Anderssen, The Globe and Mail

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