Women, men won't reach economic equality until 2186: WEF

Iceland and Finland ranked highest among 144 nations measured on progress in equality in education

Women, men won

The World Economic Forum (WEF) said efforts to close gender gaps in pay and workforce participation slowed so dramatically in the past year that men and women may not reach economic equality for another 170 years.

In the year 2015, statistics predicted that the economic gap between genders could close in 118 years. However, progress has decelerated, stalled or reversed in nations around the world, the Swiss non-profit WEF said in its annual gender gap index.

"These forecasts are not foregone conclusions. Instead, they reflect the current state of progress and serve as a call to action," Saadia Zahidi, a member of the WEF executive committee, said in a statement.

Overall, Iceland and Finland ranked highest among 144 nations measured on progress in equality in education, health and survival, economic opportunity and political empowerment.

Next were Norway and Sweden, followed by Rwanda, which has improved economic participation and income equality and has the highest share of female parliamentarians in the world, the WEF said.

The statement said at the bottom was Yemen, then Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran, with a wide array of progress in between.

WEF, in the statement, said the gap in political empowerment was particularly pronounced in the United States (US), which may soon elect its first female president. In most polls, Democrat Hillary Clinton leads Republican Donald Trump ahead of the November 8 election.

The US ranked 73rd in political empowerment, which measured the ratio of men to women in the highest levels of political decision-making, the WEF said. It ranked 45th in the global list overall.

Nations with significant political gender gaps stand to lose out, the WEF said in a 391-page report accompanying the index.

"In the political sphere, women's engagement in public life has a positive impact on inequality across society at large," it said. "In addition, there is a range of evidence to suggest that women's political leadership and wider economic participation are correlated."