The Country That Pays Women Better Than The U.S. Will Seriously Surprise You
On April 12, the United States recognizes Equal Pay Day, but the U.S. does not rank particularly high in terms of gender-based economic equality. Rather, The World Economic Forum's 2015 Global Gender Gap Report ranked the U.S. 28th out of 145 countries assessed. However, the statistics that are arguably the most surprising on the World Economic Forum report come from one of the sub-rankings: Economic Participation and Opportunity, which shows that the small African country, Burundi, has one of the smallest pay gaps in the world.
In terms of Economic Participation and Opportunity for women, the United States ranks sixth — Norway holds the first spot — out of 145, a far better score than the States' overall ranking of 28th. However, it is Burundi, the country ranked third in 2015 in terms of Economic Participation and Opportunity (and 23rd overall) that may be unexpectedly, well, equal in terms of pay for women.
According to the United Nations' 2015 Human Development Report, Burundi, a country in Sub-Saharan Africa, ranks 184th out of 188 countries in terms of capacity for human development. (For reference, the United States is in eighth place.) Furthermore, CNN reported that four out of five people in Burundi live below the poverty line. It's no wonder I was surprised to see Burundi so high on the Economic Participation and Opportunity for women list.
While Norway holds first place in terms of economic participation and opportunity in the latest World Economic Forum Report, Burundi was actually in the top spot in the previous 2014 report. Impressively, the report shows that women in Burundi make 83 percent of what their male counterparts earn. Even if a 17 percent pay gap still seems large, compared to world averages, it's not — women in Burundi experience some of the world's least wage discrimination.
This lack of wage discrimination in Burundi may be partially due to the fact that, according to the International Foundation For Electoral Systems, Burundi has adopted a gender quota system, requiring at least 30 percent of legislative positions to be filled by women. Few countries in the world have governmental gender quotas, which means that women are rarely in positions of power to insist upon working to end the pay gap.
However, even though women in Burundi are subject to less wage discrimination than most women in other countries around the world, this is not to say that Burundi is a country in which it is particularly easy to be a woman. In fact, The Guardian has reported that Burundi is on the brink of war, and reports high rates of rape.
The U.S. is constantly compared to Northern European countries that are known to have less gender-discrimination than the U.S.; therefore, it comes as little surprise that Norway holds the top ranking in the Economic Participation and Opportunity category. However, Burundi is a small country that has endured a recent civil war, and is currently enduring even more bloodshed and violence. How is it that such conditions can still produce a lesser gender-based pay gap than that which exists in the U.S.? This is something that the U.S. should consider, not just on Equal Pay Day, but every day, until women are paid equally.