2012 Report on Gender Equality and Development suggests Australian women are doing okay

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Tuesday, World Bank released the 2012 World Development Report (WDR) on Gender Equality and Development. With few specific mentions of Australia, women in the country appear to be doing better than many other countries discussed. This includes areas like education, health, life expectancy, and willingness to work part time.

In 1979, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Early on, the report credits the Sex Discrimination Act 1984, inspired by CEDAW, with dealing with inequality issues such as discrimination based on sex, marital status, and pregnancy or potential pregnancy.

The WDR 2012 team estimates based on World Values Surveys found little change in attitudes for people who agree that university education is more important for boys than girls, with around 8% of Australians saying yes between 1994 and 1999, and 5% saying yes between 2005 and 2007. About 25% of Australians said men should have more rights to jobs than women between 1994 and 1999. This dropped to 15% between 2005 and 2007.

The report says married Australian women working part-time are amongst a few nationalities who prefer their current working hours, and would not desire to change to a full time position. The report contrasts this to Honduras where married women working part-time would like to move to full-time but are unable to do so because of the lack of available employment.

The report suggests economic well being is not a good predictor of Australian female fertility. The top 20% of female earners have an average of about 1.5 children compared to the bottom 20% who have an average of 2 children.

Current Australian Parliamentarian Kate Lundy is one of several women who was not in office in 1990
Image: David Howe.

While girls score slightly lower than boys on the Programme for International Student Assessment mathematics test at around 510 to 520 on the mean score, girls outperformed boys in literacy approximately 530 to 500. The report attributes overall patterns of girls outperforming boys at literacy and boys outperforming girls at maths to gender expectations reinforced in textbooks. It sites current examples of this in Australia and Hong Kong. On the maths test, Australian girls slightly outperformed girls from Estonia, Belgium and Germany, while girls from New Zealand, Macau, the Netherlands, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Finland, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore outperformed their Australian counterparts. On the literacy test, Australian girls slightly outperformed their Norwegian and Polish counterparts. The only countries sampled outperforming Australian girls at literacy were Japan, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, Hong Kong, Finland and South Korea.

From 1991 to 2009, the gross enrolment ratio for Australian females in primary and secondary school declined by 1% and 2% respectively. For tertiary education, there was a 52% increase for females. The average life expectancy of Australian women went from 80 in 1990 to 84 in 2009. During the same period, male life expectancy grew from 74 years to 79 years. Australia's Parliament had 6% women in 1990 and grew to 25% women in 2010.


Sources

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