OECD tracks gender inequality in developing countries


In many countries, tradition and culture pose obstacles to women’s economic development, so understanding their impact is a key to effective development policies.

To increase awareness of these issues, the OECD’s Development Centre measures discrimination that restricts women’s ability to access resources in 102 developing countries.



1 - Paraguay

98 - Yemen

2 - Croatia

99- Mali

3 - Kazakhstan

100 - Sierra Leone

4 - Argentina

101 - Afghanistan

5 - Costa Rica

102 - Sudan


On March 5, 2009, the OECD’s Development Center will present this new measure at the 53rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Complementing existing indices on gender equality that measure outcomes such as life expectancy or access to primary education, the Development Centre’s Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) introduces a new measure -social institutions as the key determinant for women’s involvement in economic and social life.

It draws on 12 institutional variables relating to household behaviour and social norms, including such practices as child marriage and genital mutilation but also factors like freedom of movement and restrictions on inheritance and access to property rights.

In countries with high SIGI values, such as Sudan, Afghanistan and Mali, building more schools or giving micro-credit to women risk being ineffective when traditions forbid girls to leave the house alone after puberty and they are deprived from access to land, technology and information. SIGI shows persistent discrimination and repression in southern Asia, sub-Saharan African and the Middle East (see map).

Alongside the index, country notes give a more detailed picture of the economic and social situation of women in developing countries, while a new version of the OECD Development Centre’s online platform for sharing information on gender issues,, allows users to debate and comment on the index and its rankings.


Map of gender discrimination



The SIGI shows the important influence of social institutions on the economic role of women. The more discriminatory social institutions are, the lower the rate of female participation in the labour force, for example. Early marriage – largely forced – is a key factor here. Women’s access to paid jobs is crucial not only for their personal well-being but also for economic development.


Contacts the following people for more information:

Paris: Espen Beer Prydz, +33 1 45 24 96 21, Estelle Loiseau, +33 1 45 24 95 59

New York: Johannes Jutting, +33 6 28 69 29 01, Denis Drechsler, +1 202 492 7688

Washington, DC: Denis Drechsler, +1 202 492 7688

Or visit:

Social Institutions and Gender Index and more information on our work on gender.


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