Can you measure the progress of a nation without looking at gender equality?

The Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act, (FG Act), is world-leading legislation, placing the principle of sustainable development at the heart of policy-making in Wales.

The Act aims to do precisely what it says on the tin — ensure the well-being of future generations — by ensuring that Wales becomes more prosperous, resilient, healthier, more equal and globally responsible with a vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language.

This cannot be achieved without tackling the issue of gender inequality.

Welsh Government recently posed the question “how do you measure the progress of a nation?” to help them develop a set of indicators to track our progress against the well-being goals set out in the Future Generations Act.

The proposed set of 40 indicators had a crucial omission — gender.

While gender is not explicitly expressed in the seven well-being goals, they all hinge on tackling the same structural issues that cause gender inequality and can only truly be achieved if gender equality becomes a reality.

It is therefore crucial that gender is reflected in the indicators that are used to measure our progress towards achieving these goals.

To place gender at the centre of the well-being of future generations we have recommended the following changes to the proposed indicators:

1. Mainstreaming gender throughout the indicators.

Women’s experience of society and the economy is often different to men’s, partly as a result of their different position in the home and the labour market.

To effectively measure the progress of a nation, the indicators for the Future Generations Act must take these differences into account and include be broken down by sex across all indicators.

2. A composite gender equality indicator.

Gender inequality is complex with a variety of causes including both structural and attitudinal issues. Selecting a single comprehensive indicator from existing measures is a challenge.

To overcome this challenge, progress towards achieving gender equality internationally is measured using composite measures that include a variety of indicators.

This ensures that the “multi-faceted reality of gender equality” is reflected.

Such a measure should be developed for Wales that will pull together a range of indicators — including full time employment rate, mean monthly earnings, the gender pay gap, representation in public life and decision making and time spent on unpaid care — to comprehensively measure Wales’ progress towards achieving gender equality.

There are a variety of international examples of this kind of indicator from the UN, the EU and the Nordic nations that could be used to inform the development of a Welsh composite indicator for gender equality.

In the meantime …

Based on current timescales it would not be possible to have a fully developed composite indicator ready for inclusion ahead of the Welsh election.

If possible, efforts should be made to develop a new indicator as soon as possible so that we can more accurately measure progress and at the latest should be ready for inclusion by the 2021 Welsh elections.

While a composite indicator is developed it’s vital that progress towards gender equality is measured as best we can.

To do this we are recommending that two indicators be included in the suite of 40 as interim indicators:

  • The gender pay gap.
  • Women’s representation in public life and decision making.

These indicators will measure equality within the economy and equality of power, two crucial areas where action is needed to ensure women are able to achieve and prosper.

By mainstreaming gender throughout the FG indicators and including a stand-alone gender equality indicator Welsh Government can reaffirm its commitment to equality and ensure that future generations live in a Wales where women achieve and prosper.

Our Response

Written by Natasha Davies, @daviesna2.