Tackling social norms: A game changer for gender inequalities


Tackling social norms: A game changer for gender inequalities is a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report published on March 5, 2020. The report is a collaboration between the UNDP’s Human Development Report Office and the UNDP Gender Team. It is substantially based on research conducted for the Human Development Report 2019, published by UNDP in December 2019.

The report notes that the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, 1995, was followed by remarkable achievements in women’s education and health. (The Declaration, adopted by the United Nation’s Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing on September 1995, contains a blueprint for advancing women’s rights.) However, the Human Development Report 2019 indicates that the overall progress in attaining gender equality – based on health, education and economic status – has been slowing in recent years.

The report discusses the gender social norms index (GSNI), which measures how social beliefs obstruct gender equality in areas like politics, work and education. It contains GSNI data for 75 countries, covering over 80 per cent of the world’s population. The data indicates that large sections of men and women continue to oppose gender equality – “hold biases against” it – and that most countries indicate an increase in such biases.


  1. Estimates of the World Economic Forum’s The Global Gender Gap Report 2018, says the UNDP report, show that it will take 257 years to close the gender gap in economic opportunity.

  2. The GSNI tells us that 91 per cent of men and 86 per cent of women have at least one clear bias against gender equality in areas such as politics, economics, education, intimate partner violence, and women’s reproductive rights. About 50 per cent of men and women interviewed across 75 countries felt that men make better political leaders than women, while more than 40 per cent felt that men made better business executives. Almost 30 per cent of people agreed that it is justifiable for a man to beat his partner.

  3. Between 2005-09 and 2010-14, the share of people with no bias dropped for most countries (17 of 31). This drop was the maximum in Sweden (from 80.99 to 69.99 per cent), India (from 8.6 to 1.72 per cent), South Africa (from 6.68 to 3.68 per cent) and Romania (from 16.55 to 14.5 per cent).

  4. Between 2005-09 and 2010-14, the share of men with no bias against gender equality fell most in Sweden (from 79.79 to 68.26 per cent), Germany (from 36.59 to 29.71 per cent), India (from 5.72 to 0.79 per cent) and Mexico (from 15.78 to 12.81 per cent).

  5. As per the latest available data, 2.91 per cent of women and 0.79 per cent of men in India had no bias against gender equality; 97.09 per cent of women and 99.21 per cent of men had at least one such bias.

  6. The report – citing the Human Development Report 2019 states that in 50 countries where adult women were more educated than men, despite working for more hours, women’s income was still 39 per cent lesser than that of men on average.

  7. Every year, 12 million girls are forced into early marriage – the report notes, citing Human Development Report 2019. The highest rates of early marriage are reported in Sub-Saharan Africa, where 36 per cent of women married before their 18th birthday, and South Asia, where the number was 29 per cent.

  8. Globally, the rate of women and men voting in elections is similar, and there is parity in entry-level political participation where power is diffused. But women are severely underrepresented in positions of more concentrated political power. According to data released by UN Women and Geneva-based Inter-Parliamentary Union (of 179 national parliaments), in 2019, only 24 per cent of all parliament seats globally were held by women, and women comprised of only 5 per cent of all heads of government.

  9. The report states that Tunisia has one of the most progressive gender parity laws in the world despite being a young democracy (its first Constitution was ratified in 2014). According to data from UN Women, women occupied 47 per cent of all of Tunisia’s local council positions in 2018.

  10. Parental leave for men – implemented in Québec in 2006 – allowed fathers to become more involved in caregiving. Citing a research paper titled Reserving Time for Daddy: The Consequences of Fathers’ Quotas (2019), the report states that men who availed of parental leave engaged in household work for 23 per cent more time than those who did not avail of it, even after the leave period ended.

    Focus and Factoids by Parijat Lal.


Human Development Report Office, UNDP, and the UNDP Gender Team


United Nations Development Programme


05 Mar, 2020