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18 Best Countries for Women to Live in Today

SimiJuly 29, 2018

Does geography really matter? For women more than men, it affects life in a different way. Gender differences exist in all countries when it comes to education, salary levels, employment opportunities and basic human rights.

In society, there are many factors to consider when looking at gender equality. It is a complex area of research, so many studies are ongoing to determine which countries afford women the best opportunities. But what does it mean to be a woman? What does it mean to be a victim of discrimination because of your gender?

Sexist comments, remarks and attitudes may affect women, and some countries stand out above others when it comes to education, social norms and economics.

In fact, discrimination based on gender is actually uncommon in some places. For women, these countries seek to empower them. These countries give women a platform to strive to be leaders of industry and do everything men do. They want to correct any gender imbalances in the workplace and in the treatment of women in society.

1. Denmark

This Scandinavian country may be small, but it has top spot as the best place for women to live. It is ranked number one in a U.S. News and World Report survey that looked at gender and income equality, safety and progressiveness. Retired Danish women are among the happiest in the world. Denmark is a social state country, so there is a high price to pay for being so well looked after by the state.

Danish tax rates are some of the highest in the world. However, that translates into health care, education and many benefits in society for members of a welfare state. Denmark scores high as a great place to raise children. It also has one of the highest scores when it comes to assessing the well-being of mothers and children.

The Danish Constitution embraced gender equality in 1915. So, women have had the vote, and equality is one of the founding principles of the democratic constitution. Denmark still has a gender gap when it comes wages earned compared to other Scandinavian countries. Women earn 16.4 percent less per hour than men. However, Denmark still ranked fifth among equal countries. According to the World Economic Forum of 2014, Denmark was just after Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

Denmark‘s development minister, Ulla Tornaes, was among a group of nations at the World Bank’s spring summit in Washington in 2017. They campaigned for a global boot camp for women’s rights. She wanted to send the message across the world that women’s health, education and rights were essential global concerns. The “She Decides” movement was born. It emphasized that investing in women and girls, including family planning and secular education, would benefit the world.

2. Finland

The Nordic countries lead the way in championing a women’s right to equality. They are profoundly progressive societies. These are the places where women lack equal access to education or the same legal status as men. But in Finland, more women than men have tertiary education.

Even though women have equal access to jobs like politics, it’s a male-dominated arena. In fact, two-thirds of the ministers are men. There is still a gender gap when it comes to salaries, too. Men are slightly higher (80 percent) than women (76 percent). Even though Norway is a progressive society, there is still a gender gap in average annual salaries.

Men earn, on average, 27 percent more than women. Finland has a public childcare system and provides school children with meals. This means that it is much easier for both parents to work full-time. Parental leave is 263 days.

Paid leave. So Finnish society is a great place to have children. Mothers receive pay for the first 105 days. Then either parent can choose to be home for the next 158 (paid) days. In Finland, both parents usually work. In fact, up to 83 percent of women work.

But it also possible to take childcare leave without losing your job if a child is less than three years old. Finnish women have an average fertility rate of 1.8 children. Still, there is a 20 percent pay gap between men and women there. This may be because more women work in public service jobs and get lower salaries than the private sector.

3. Norway

How do countries address imbalanced gender ratios? These are complex societal, cultural and educational issues that can’t be resolved overnight. Long-term strategies create new potential skills for women and change over time. There are many education and future job prospects. Norway is another Scandinavian country that seeks to empower women.

In Norway, there are more women than men in the professional and technical workforce. How have they achieved this amazing result? You may wonder if women are running the country. But the answer is no. In fact, like Finland, two-thirds of the ministers are men.

Men also hold the dominant seats of power. However, Norwegian society actively works to create better opportunities for women. In fact, in Norway, there are public programs to empower young girls to take non-traditional subjects. At one point the government even set aside certain jobs in universities just for women, but it was later challenged in court and found to be illegal.

The Norwegian parliament has introduced gender quotas for businesses and organizations regarding board member gender ratios. Norway is a progressive country that also looks at men’s rights. They introduced six-week paternity leave for fathers. The Norwegian government ensures women enjoy freedom from violence and acts on these issues. A women’s safety is a top priority.

These are progressive ideals that create some debate within Norwegian society. Job reservation is a form of reverse discrimination. But there are underlying values Norway seeks to address. Gender equality, equal opportunity and similar goals are always a work in progress. No country is entirely free from gender gaps, but working for change is a big step forward in Norway.

4. Iceland

Iceland is a beautiful country of natural wonders, as well one of wonders for women and education. Proportionally, 60 percent more of the tertiary-educated population is women. Women far outnumber men in the pursuit of higher education. Like other Scandinavian countries, two-thirds of men are in government in Iceland. Iceland is one of the highest-ranking countries in closing its gender gap, at 87 percent.

The World Economic Forum ranks it at number one globally. Iceland has achieved great progress. It increased the number of women in Parliament from 25 percent in the 80’s to 35 percent today.  Increasing the representation of women in government reflects these countries’ efforts to work toward gender equality. Iceland has strict legislation on gender equality.

It even has a watchdog body that can impose a daily 500 Euro fine on companies that transgress gender ratios. Men and women make up an almost equal percentage of the labor force. Men and women are both able to take paternity/maternity leave. They may extend it from nine months to a year. Both parents get three months, and the balance is split between them afterward.

Iceland has one of the highest fertility rates at 2.1, well above the European average of 1.5. What makes Iceland different? How has it achieved such results? Well, aside from legislating gender equality, various government bodies watch over society.

Iceland is a progressive country that challenges gender-based stereotypes. It also works toward addressing imbalances, gender-based discrimination, harassment or violence. Entrenched in Iceland’s social responsibility and legal bodies are The Centre for Gender Equality, The Equal Status Committee and The Complaints Committee.

5. Sweden

Sweden is a country where women excel in education and have some of the highest education levels in the world. In fact, females, on average, have higher scores than males, including male-dominated subjects like math and science. At an undergraduate level, 60 percent of students are women who also receive two-thirds of the degrees. This is an outstanding achievement in education. At the post-doctoral level, women account for 44 percent of students.

Sweden has laws that protect women and gender ratios. Discriminating against anyone based on their gender is illegal. The Equal Opportunities Act requires that employers promote gender equality. In Sweden, women run many companies, both private, limited companies and those publicly listed. In fact, women head more than a quarter of the companies there.

Sweden is one of the global leaders when it comes to women’s economic participation in society. In addition, the gender pay gap is among the lowest in the world, around 80 percent. Other factors than gender account for this difference, too. Factors like working in the private sector or public office, as well as age and experience, also work in this complex equation.

What is surprising is that Sweden, unlike her Nordic neighbors, has yet to elect a female Prime Minister. Finland, Norway and Iceland have had female Prime Ministers. Sweden is a welfare state that provides financial aid to parents regardless of whether a child is born to the couple or adopted. Families also get 480 days of parental leave.

If a family adopts a child, parents may take 18 months parental leave regardless of the age. If a family has twins, the father is also granted more newborn leave.

6. Germany

This European country ranks at number 11 in the Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum. Most Scandinavian countries score high in gender pay differences, although Germany still has a large wage gap. But Germany scores well in a lot of other areas, specifically education. The wage gap could be because women choose different jobs. They favor humanities and “softer” sciences when making educational and career choices.

Germany is aware of this trend and has launched a government program to encourage women to study in more male-dominated areas. These include technical fields like engineering, math and science. Germany is a progressive country, as illustrated by its great leader, Angela Merkel. She was elected in 2005 as its first female chancellor.

German legislation is strong at protecting women’s rights. There are national and state laws to enforce gender equality. The Federal Act on Equal Opportunities between Men and Women and the General Equal Treatment Act entrench equality for men and women. Although some have challenged their state laws, they have not been found to violate the principles of gender equality.

The German government funded the Gender Competence Center to implement these issues. Each state enforces its own laws or federal areas. The numbers of men and women who attend university are about the same, 40.6 and 38 percent, respectively. This is a similar gender ratio, but at higher levels, the figures for women change considerably.

At the post-doctoral level, the percentage drops to 22.7 percent. There is also a far greater percentage of women in the humanities and cultural studies than in the sciences, except for medical science.

7. England

England has a growing “lad culture” that challenges gender equality and women’s rights. It is a popular, rebellious response to society described as “an anti-intellectual position, scorning sensitivity.” According to a UN Special Report, this “boys’ club” mentally reflects a sexist culture.

In fact, some report the lad culture has stopped some women from completing their education at a professional level. A society’s value is often reflected in the media, and The Sun newspaper was famous for its Page 3 nude pictures. In 2012, a No More Page 3 campaign found that men, predominantly, wanted to keep the topless glamour model page. Just 12 percent of women voted to keep it.

In education, there are noted differences between men and women. The inequality of education links to gender-specific school curriculum practices. However, girls outperform boys in areas like reading and math. In fact, women are more likely to enroll in university than men. Although more women study for future careers and better working hours and wages, men still outperform women.

This means there is a noticeable gender gap between men and women with earning potential. And even when you remove the time factor, there is still a wage gap. Over time, the wage gap increases. Older working women and men earn different wages. Although women outperform men in education, it still doesn’t impact women’s future careers in England.

8. Canada

Women outnumber men in Canada in educational success at the secondary and university level. But despite this statistic, women face challenges in the higher tertiary levels. There is also a noted glass ceiling in the labor market. This means a woman’s career path may reach a point at which she will not get the higher position based on her gender.

In Canada, many women work because of strong child-care policies and maternity leave regulations. However, there are gaps in pay between men and women, so Canada has to narrow the gender gap. Despite legal principles to promote equality, there are still strong gender-based differences in earning potential as well as career prospects.

Women predominantly have vocations in the “softer” sciences and humanities. But they account for a small percentage in the traditionally-male fields such as technology and engineering. This despite the fact that an equal number of men and women obtain degrees. Although potentially having equal educational opportunities, Canadian women are still underrepresented in these areas.

The principles of gender equality are celebrated in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms of 1982. The Canadian Human Rights Act promotes gender equality in all areas of public life from education to employment. The Multiculturalism Act of 1998 also promoted and protected the rights of women, including aboriginal women and foreigners. Regardless of the laws, there is still a gender gap for women to enjoy greater equality as a whole.

9. Ireland

Are you feeling the luck of the Irish? Ireland has strong laws like the Employment Equality Act of 1998 to counter discrimination against women. It fights discrimination in equal pay, employment, training and work experience. The Equal Status Act of 2000 seeks to ward against discrimination in all other areas. There is also a support and advisory body called the NDP Gender Equity Unit that advises the government on gender equality.

Ireland has come a long way in the past 50 years. Compared to previous generations, young women today account for a much larger part of the working force. In 1975, women ages 25 to 34 only accounted for 30 percent. In 2004, the figure was 76 percent. However, there are many factors to consider that impact the gender ratio.

For example, women with two or more children under 16 account for only 22 percent of the job market. Ireland has a lot fewer women in government than countries like Sweden. But it also important to consider the history of the country to understand their society. Ireland is neither a welfare state nor are there special benefits compared to Scandinavian countries.

There is a lack of a generous parental leave and structures that make being a working mother easier. Not many countries in the world offer built-in childcare and meals for children. These types of benefits are more readily available in social welfare states. So, what does this mean for Ireland?

It means that Ireland is a progressive country with entrenched laws that protect women in the workplace and greater society. Yet, there is still a gap to close compared to the Scandinavian countries.

10. New Zealand

New Zealand scores high when it comes to empowering women in society. In fact, it has closed 79 percent of its gender gap, ranking it at number nine. New Zealand has made progress in the past year empowering women in the arena of politics. And in this area, it ranks number 12. New Zealand is not just a country famous for its scenic beauty and its kiwi fruit.

However, the report also found there is a gender gap in monthly wages. Women, on average, earn 30 percent less than their male counterparts. In fact, the report found there was a slight increase in the gender gap compared to the previous decade. In fact, reports show 56 percent of women’s and 29 percent of men’s work goes unpaid.

The progress prediction for closing the workplace gender gap completely is 217 years, and the global gender gap is 100. Recently, New Zealand turned down legislation to make salaries public knowledge. This move would have made it possible to compare salaries based on gender. This has happened in countries like Australia and the U.K. and has proven quite controversial.

It is a complex topic, and there are arguments unrelated to gender with differences in salary. There are factors like experience, work performance and salaries related to public and private sectors. When the salaries of various BBC employees were published, it sparked debate because there were considerable differences between men and women with the same job.

11. Slovenia

Globally, Slovenia ranks seventh in promoting gender equality and closing the gender gap. It is the leading country in Central and Eastern Europe in championing the rights of women. Slovenia, along with Brazil, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia, were the only countries to close the gap in health, survival and educational attainment. The WEF Global Gap Report analyzes gender equality in health, education, economic participation and political empowerment.

Slovenia is a fast-progressing nation in closing the gender gap. In the past decade or so, it has closed 13 percent of the gap. It is one of seven countries across the globe to have achieved this remarkable feat, bringing the gap to 80 percent. So, what does this mean for a country? When you look at the national workforce and salaries as well as education and contribution to society, the smaller the gender gap, the greater the economic power women can have.

Closing the gender gap allows women to contribute more to society, too. And statistics show there is a strong relationship between gender equality and a higher GDP. So, the stronger a society values gender equality, the more successful its economy. It is important to consider what it costs a country that doesn’t promote equal rights for men and women.

12. Rwanda

Rwanda is one of the world leaders in promoting gender equality. It is ahead of other more developed nations such as the U.S. and France. It may shock you to see Rwanda on this list. However, its place on the international report is quite tragic. Rwanda is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. There is little access to electricity and life expectancy is 65.

The first factor to consider is the high rate of women in the workforce. This is the result of the tragic genocide that occurred two decades ago. In just months, more than 800,000 Rwandans were killed. The result is that 86 percent of the labor force is women. In the U.S., it is 56 percent.

Remarkably, the wage gap in Rwanda is narrow. Women earn 88 cents to the dollar compared to 74 cents in America. After the genocide in Rwanda, the population was 60-70 percent women. There was little choice for them but to take on jobs traditionally for men.

While Rwanda scores high on the global gender gap stats, but it is not a great news. Sadly, it took an overly skewed female domination of the population to put a country onto the list.

13. The Netherlands

The Netherlands is the home of Amsterdam. That in itself should give anyone some idea of why this European country is on this list. Not to make too fine a point of the Red Light District, because it would seem rather ironic to bring that up on a list like this. For a moment though, consider what it symbolizes.

The Red Light District is a very clear representation of the tolerance that is adopted in the Netherlands. It does not have a depraved history of being intolerant of people or their recreational choices. This same stance on such issues translates to gender equality. In fact, the Netherlands could even be considered to be a pioneer in the realm of gender equality.

In 1978, it signed something called the emancipation policy. The basic idea of this policy was to ensure that there was no gap between the two genders. To be exact, men and women would receive the same salaries. They would be given the same parental leave, power, education and care. This policy was put in place to work across the board, ensuring that neither gender was discriminated against.

In 2011, the country even went further in legalizing its stance on tolerance. The new policy was the LGBT and Gender Equality Policy Plan. The country did this so its ideas on these issues would not just be ideas any more, but legalized and fully legitimized. Gender in this country is not only not an issue, but sexual orientation is of no consequence.

14. Australia

When it comes to Australia, if the only information you had was based on memes, then you could completely be forgiven for only thinking of spiders, the outback, and Steve Irwin. There is something very important about Australia that a lot of people don’t know:

Australians have quite a wonderful quality of life. In Australia, people enjoy their lives. They do not live to work, they work to live. They go out in the sun, to the beach and out to eat. Not just any food, good food, and they make an experience out of it. All of this good living translates to a high life expectancy, and in the spirit of this list, it is the same for both men and women.

Women and men are treated to the same quality of life in Australia. In fact, on the gender equality scale, Australia scores 8.4 out of 10.

The country also recently legalized same-sex marriages. This is a spectacular step forward in developing a society that welcomes all. A society that does not exclude or discriminate against any person.

15. New Zealand

This small island in the Southern Hemisphere not only has a rugby team that is a force to be reckoned with, but also an incredibly long history of gender equality.

Whereas some countries still battle over a woman’s right to vote in the 21st century, New Zealand dealt with the issue in the 19th century. That’s not a typo! Women were legally allowed to vote in 1893. This set a precedent for the country that is persisting even today.

In 2017, Jacinda Ardern was named Prime Minister. She did this after running a very successful campaign for the Labour party. This is wonderfully impressive and progressive in itself, but it does get even better. At 38 years old, she is the youngest female leader in the world! New Zealand will be able to hang its cap on that for years to come.

The island scores 7.6 on the gender equality rating. This is a value that can be improved upon, but is still very impressive. Great things do come in small packages, so it is safe to say that New Zealand is sure to surprise the world in this arena.

16. Luxembourg

If you are at a bit of a loss as to where Luxembourg is, you are forgiven. This country may be small, but it is undoubtedly a force and the more you know about it, the better. It is the wealthiest country in the European Union. This is even more surprising when one considers how small it is. It does not even come close in terms of land mass to countries like Germany and France, and yet it has an incredibly formidable economy.

The state of its affairs has directly translated into a high standard of living. In fact, the Luxembourg standard of living is among the highest in the world. This is not the only area it is taking home awards. Luxembourg also scores beautifully for human rights.

In terms of gender equality, it is lagging behind a bit and only has an equality score of 6.9 out of 10. This value does not inspire much confidence in comparison to its overall wealth, but Luxembourg is putting in a concerted effort to change this.

A 2017 initiative was specifically designed to increase the number of women in politics. This campaign was called “Would politics suit you, madam?” It is still too soon to judge whether this campaign had the desired effect. But one thing is sure: Luxembourg is undoubtedly moving in the right direction when it comes to narrowing the gender gap.

17. Austria

Arts and culture abound in Austria. Each one of its cities is bursting with color and flavor. This is all wonderfully impressive and entertaining. But, this country has also made quite the name for itself when it comes to abolishing violence against women.

There was something called the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. More commonly called the Istanbul Convention, without Austria, it would never have come to life. When looking at its borders and gender equality score, they rank quite high.

But, it still has quite a way to go when it comes to income equality. When considering its role in the Istanbul Convention, it is fair to say that Austria will soon be working on this issue. This may even come in the form of them joining the UN Commission on the Status of Women. As it stands, citizens of this country enjoy a wonderful quality of life, and the horizon is very promising when it comes to gender and income equality.

18. France

This European country has long held a spot in global affairs. Not only does it boast an enormous number of international alliances, but it also has been very influential on the world. The French have set the tune for fashion for hundreds of years. Their politics have inspired others, and their culture has delighted thousands in its wake.

France is indeed a beautiful country with something for everyone. Its people are also wonderfully happy and enjoy a full range of human rights. When it comes down to numbers, it scores incredibly high when it comes to gender equality and human rights. This has not yet translated into a high score for income equality, but that will hopefully change soon.

The individual is emphasized in France. It is not a country that deals with masses; it deals with people. In France, they value the person. They value and champion the individual. This kind of thinking has resulted in a culture and society that does not believe in discrimination.

Granted, this is not specific to women, and that is the topic at hand. But, they have built a foundation that is primed for full equality regardless of a person’s gender. France is not like other countries that have hundreds of years of tradition to dismantle. Because of this, the goal of gender equality in France should be achieved in no time at all.

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