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Mexico and El Salvador rank higher for workplace equality than the US and Norway

Women at work.
Women at work.
Image: Reuters/Regis Duvignau
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Mexico, El Salvador, and Macedonia offer women greater workplace equality than US, Germany, or Noway, according to a new index released today by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

The think tank’s newly-launched Workplace Equality Index ranks 189 countries based on several determinants of workplace equality, such as providing incentives for women to join the workforce, supporting women in building a credit score, whether women can get the same job as men and the presence of protections against violence.

Its scores are calculated from answers to 60 questions on law and policy, including “Can women work the same hours as men?” “Are mothers guaranteed equivalent positions after maternity leave?” and “Does the law prohibit discrimination by creditors on the basis of marital status and access to credit?” The maximum score—which would require a positive answer to all questions—is 100, but no country attained it. Australia, which leads the world in workplace equality, scored 94.9; Yemen, at the bottom of the list, had 24.2.

The top-rated countries were a mix of usual suspects and surprises: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Spain, Mexico, Bosnia and Herzegovina, United Kingdom, Lithuania, Iceland, and Latvia lead the world. The US is only 20th in the list, Germany is 31st, and Norway, often considered a beacon of progress, ranks only 54th for workplace equality—far lower than Honduras, Kosovo, or Zambia.

The CFR warns that often there is a lag between the policy and laws on paper, and the actual situation in a country. However, the index does offer an important reflection of women’s legal rights. It shows that US law, for instance, supports women as far as accessing institutions and building credit, but not when it comes to gender-blind hiring, ending violence against women, and women’s credibility in court. In Norway, there is work to be done in terms of protecting women from gendered violence, and a complete lack of laws and regulations backing women’s access to credit.

Below is the full ranking: