The Global Gender Gap Index – an example of Orwellian doublethink?

The way this index is calculated, the UK can soar to the top by taking four simple steps:
Ban boys from receiving any education
Confine all men to the home or slave labour
Give all paid employment, including being a member of parliament, to women
Deny all men medical treatment so that they have an average life expectancy of around 50

Each of the points in bold above would, astonishingly, increase our score in the “Global Gender Gap Index” for the UK and make us seemingly better egalitarians. The explanation for this is that factors disadvantaging men are completely ignored! I will go on to explain in more detail. Those of you who have read any of my other posts will know that I believe strongly in gender equality, but question whether, in the search for “equality”, men’s issues are ignored.  I particularly question whether the feminist movement is truly struggling for equality for all. The other day, I was looking at the relevance of some Gender Gap/Equality Indices, of which there are several, and I must admit that, even with my rather high level of “equality cynicism”, I was surprised by how completely they seem to support my view that the current road to equality is a one-way street. I am going to talk particularly about the Global Gender Gap Index, but my intention is not to rubbish the index, as it does focus attention on some key areas where women are disadvantaged, but just to point out how absurdly one-sided it is.

My attention was caught by news reports from last year that the UK had fallen out of the top twenty countries in the “Global Gender Gap Index”. The reports suggested that the UK was falling behind in the equality race, so I thought it would be interesting to find out exactly what was meant by the word “equality” in this case. Some of you may not believe that the picture can be as skewed as I am going to paint it, so I will start by giving a link to the source of my information. I will give a little more detail later, but here is the quote, from the page linked above, that sums up the astonishingly biased methodology used to calculate the index. The first paragraph is discussing the two different methods which could have been used, the second the consequences of choosing the one-sided method.

“One was a negative-positive scale capturing the size and direction of the gender gap. This scale penalizes either men’s advantage over women or women’s advantage over men, and gives the highest points to absolute equality. The second choice was a one-sided scale that measures how close women are to reaching parity with men but does not reward or penalize countries for having a gender gap in the other direction. We find the one-sided scale more appropriate for our purposes, as it does not reward countries for having exceeded the parity benchmark.”  

and, from the same page...

“Hence, the Index rewards countries that reach the point where outcomes for women equal those for men, but it neither rewards nor penalizes cases in which women are outperforming men on particular variables in some countries. Thus a country, which has higher enrolment for girls rather than boys in secondary school, will score equal to a country where boys’ and girls’ enrolment is the same.”
(From the Global Gender Gap linked above – my bold)

This potentially leads to a huge distortion and bias in the figures. For example, many countries, including the UK, have significantly more women than men in tertiary education, but this is completely ignored in the calculation. All concept of balance is lost.

The thing that worries me most about this, is that not one of the reports about the UK’s position in the index (ok, I admit that I didn’t read them all), mentioned the fact that the index is openly designed not to measure equality. It excludes, as a matter of principle, any inequality working to the advantage of women. Have our ideas of equality become so twisted that we accept unquestioningly the validity of a “gender gap” report that completely ignores any disadvantages applying to half the population?

One of the most astonishing aspects of the methodology, is that it goes so far as to assume that women are entitled to live at least 6% longer than men. No – you didn’t misread that last sentence, read it again to be sure. Unless women live at least 6% longer than men, the country is penalised for having a gender gap disadvantaging women. The fact that the gap is narrowing in the UK counts against us in the rankings – it really does! There are many factors that could lead to men having a lower life expectancy than women: these include violence (most murder victims are male and the vast majority of those killed in war are male), suicide (in the UK there are 4 times as many male suicides as female), and poor lifestyle ( traditionally men have smoked more and drunk more alcohol than women). These factors are, as they should be, taken into account in the calculation of life expectancy, thus improvements in these factors for men, or a deterioration for women, decrease the  life expectancy gap between men and women thus increasing the “gender gap” by their definition.

This measure provides an estimate of the number of years that women and men can expect to live in good health by taking into account the years lost to violence, disease, malnutrition or other relevant factors………..the healthy life expectancy benchmark is set to be 1.06 (From the Global Gender Gap linked above – my bold)

The gap between the life expectancy for men and women is slowly decreasing in the UK, perhaps because of changing social responsibilities (women have a greater role as breadwinner), lifestyle (the proportion of women to men smoking and drinking regularly is increasing), and probably for many other complex reasons. Anything we do that decreases the gap , such finding a cure for prostate cancer, or increasing the number of women in dangerous jobs (94% of those killed in accidents at work are male), can have only a negative impact on our “Gender Gap” as measured by this index.

Decreasing the life expectancy gap between genders actually increases the “Gender Gap”: George Orwell would have been proud of this fine example of doublethink.

Of course, other examples of discrimination against men, such as compulsory military service, higher state retirement ages, or more severe punishments for the same crime, are also ignored by this and other so-called gender equality indexes.

I believe that the Gender Equality Index (European Institute of Gender Equality) at least counts gaps in both directions, but I don’t believe they include factors such as compulsory military service, retirement age differences etc: I have asked them and await a response. I wonder if we have a single, “official” gender equality index that genuinely takes an even-handed view of the situation, and includes the various factors mentioned above in which you might reasonably say men are disadvantaged. If you know of one, please let me know.

Do Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP believe that men should receive their state pension at a younger age than women?

Nicola Sturgeon believes that higher state pension ages disadvantage Scots, who have a shorter life expectancy than those South of the border. Does this mean they believe men should receive their pension earlier than women?

We all know that for many decades men have received their state pension at the age of 65, whilst women, who have a significantly longer life expectancy, received it, until very recently, at 60. The pension ages are very slowly being equalised and by 2018, both men and women will retire at 65: this move was announced in 1995! Afterwards, state pension age for both men and women is set to rise together to 66 and ever upwards.

The assumption has always been that men and women’s state pension ages would then remain equal, despite the obvious fact that women’s greater life expectancy means they will receive their pension, on average, for several years longer than men. However, a surprise policy announcement this week by Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party, throws that into doubt and suggests that, in their view, pension ages should be linked to life expectancy.

According to Ms Sturgeon, in the event of a hung parliament the SNP will refuse to support any rises in state pension age as this disadvantages Scots, who live, on average, around two years less than their English counterparts. Although the difference between men and women was not stated explicitly in this announcement, the gap in life expectancy between the two countries is significantly less than that between men and women throughout the UK. This must lead to speculation that SNP policy on fairness in state pension age will inevitably lead to moves to make women work two or more years longer than men in order to receive the same pension.

On the face of it, that is not unreasonable, as it means that the average man and the average woman will receive their pensions for around the same length of time. It remains to be seen, though, how women’s pressure groups will react to the possibility of this further step towards pension equality.