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A long-term analysis of the gender gap between men and women in 145 countries globally shows only a 4-per-cent improvement over the past decade, suggesting progress for women is moving slowly and even worsening in many countries.

The 10th annual Global Gender Gap report by the World Economic Forum assesses parity for women in four broad categories – economic participation, education, political empowerment and health – and concludes that economic progress is moving particularly slowly for women, with wage and labour force parity "stalling markedly" since 2009.

Overall scores have improved by just 4 per cent and the economic category improved just 3 per cent globally over the past decade, the report said, which means it would take another 118 years to fully close the earnings and workplace participation gaps for women around the world at that rate of progress.

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Saadia Zahidi, head of the global challenge on gender parity at the World Economic Forum, said women have higher university enrolment than men in 100 countries, yet still trail men in the workplace and only match men in senior roles in "a handful" of countries.

"Companies and governments need to implement new policies to prevent this continued loss of talent and instead leverage it for boosting growth and competitiveness," she said in a statement.

Canada slid to 30th position in the ranking from 19th last year, while the United States finished 28th. Iceland, Norway and Finland finished in the top three spots, while Yemen finished last out of 145 countries, just ahead of Pakistan and Syria.

Canada's weakest marks are surprisingly in the area of health and survival for women, where the country ranks 109th in the world out of 145 countries assessed, pulling down Canada's total score as a result.

The health category is marked using two narrow criteria, one of which is the "healthy" life expectancy of women compared with men, where Canada ranks 118th in the world. The measure does not assess total life expectancy, but instead looks at the ratio between the number of years women and men can expect to live healthy lives without serious illness.

Because Canadian women live longer on average and tend to suffer from more serious but not typically life-threatening diseases – including higher rates of arthritis and allergies – Canadian women have a healthy life expectancy that is just two years longer than men at age 73 versus age 71.

The top-ranking countries in the healthy life expectancy category are typically poorer countries where women have far longer healthy life spans than men, giving them a larger ratio in favour of women. The highest scoring country is Russia, where women have a healthy life expectancy of 66 years, which is 11 years longer than men at age 55. The gap in Russia is blamed by some researchers on high levels of alcohol abuse by men.

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The other factor assessed in the health and survival category is the ratio of births of girls versus boys, which is intended to capture the prevalence of selective abortion of girls by people who want more sons. Ninety-eight countries tie for first place in the category, while Canada ties for 99th position with a further 29 countries, pulling down Canada's ranking in the category to 99th globally and having an impact on its health and survival total score.

Canada's results are better in the other categories. Canada tied for first place in education because of high literacy and education rates for girls, and ranked 28th in the world in economic participation because of relatively high labour force participation and estimated income levels for women.

In the category of political empowerment – which measures factors such as the proportion of women in Parliament and women serving in ministerial positions – Canada ranked 46th in the world. The score was based on data as of June 1, so did not include changes from the October federal election, including a new federal cabinet with 50 per cent women.

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