Chapter 1. SIGI 2019 results

This chapter presents an overview of the global trends and results from the 2019 Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) and its four dimensions: discrimination in the family, physical integrity, access to productive and financial assets, and civil liberties. It outlines the main areas of progress and the main challenges regarding formal and informal laws, social norms and practices related to gender equality worldwide. It emphasises geographical disparities and the heterogeneity of progress. Finally, it briefly presents the SIGI components.


The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

SIGI’s overview

Legal reforms and transformative gender policies and programmes conducted by governments, civil society, philanthropy and the private sector are starting to pay off. The SIGI results indicate that the global level of discrimination in social institutions is 29%, ranging from 8% in Switzerland to 64% in Yemen (Figure 1.1). Thanks to strong legal frameworks and transformative gender policies, almost two thirds of the 120 countries ranked in the SIGI have low to very low levels of discrimination in social institutions (Box 1.1, Figure 1.2). All 33 best-performing countries provide women and men with equal inheritance rights and equivalent parental authority, while domestic violence and rape are defined as criminal offences. In these countries, 9% of women justify domestic violence, 20% of the population claim than men make better political leaders and fewer than 5% deny women’s right to paid work outside the home, compared to 27%, 47% and 17% at the global level, respectively.

Figure 1.1. SIGI 2019 results

Note: Higher SIGI values indicate higher inequality: the SIGI ranges from 0% for no discrimination to 100% for absolute discrimination.

Source: OECD (2019), Gender, Institutions and Development Database,

This relatively good performance is explained by increasing political commitment to the elimination of gender inequality and shifts in some social norms that are detrimental to equality at the global level. New legislation has enhanced equality and abolished discriminatory laws. For instance, since the last edition of the SIGI, 15 countries strengthened their legal frameworks to delay the age of a first marriage by eliminating legal exceptions; 2 countries have eliminated discriminatory legal provisions related to women’s inheritance; 15 countries enacted legislation to criminalise domestic violence; and 3 countries have criminalised Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) since 2014. To date, 164 countries explicitly recognise women’s rights to own, use, make decisions and use land as collateral on equal terms with men; paid maternity leave is now guaranteed in all but two countries, and 91 countries mandate paid paternity leave. Similarly, some social norms that are detrimental to equality have become less prominent. For instance, social acceptance of domestic violence decreased from 50% in 2012 to 37% in 2014 and 27% in 2018, which has important consequences for women and girls’ well-being. In Sudan, for example, the proportion of the population supporting FGM went from 27% to 18% between 2014 and 2018. The shift in attitude and the resulting decrease in FGM prevalence make a compelling case for public health policy to eradicate the practice altogether.

Box 1.1. SIGI 2019 classification

The SIGI scores 120 countries and classifies them into five groups:

  • Very low level of discrimination (SIGI < 20%): 33 countries, representing 28% of the countries ranked;

  • Low level of discrimination (20% < SIGI < 30%): 42 countries, representing 35% of the countries ranked;

  • Medium level of discrimination (30% < SIGI < 40%): 16 countries, representing 13% of the countries ranked;

  • High level of discrimination (40% < SIGI < 50%): 17 countries, representing 14% of the countries ranked;

  • Very high level of discrimination (SIGI > 50%): 12 countries, representing 10% of the countries ranked.

Figure 1.2. SIGI 2019 distribution

Note: Based on SIGI 2019 data.

Source: OECD (2019), Gender, Institutions and Development Database,

Tell me where you live, I will tell you what level of discrimination you face. The SIGI reveals clear regional trends, making the case for applying a social norm lens to gender equality. While in the SIGI classification no African countries and only two Asian countries appear to have very low levels of discrimination in social institutions, the majority of European countries do (25 out of 36). On the other hand, all high to very high discriminatory countries are located in Africa and Asia (17 and 12 respectively). More precisely, this is in North Africa that legislation, social norms and practices create the highest gaps between women and men (49%), followed by Southern Asia (48%), Middle Africa (44%), Western Africa (44%) and Western Asia (41%).

Progress is far from homogeneous across regions. One in four countries has high to very high levels of discrimination in social institutions. In the lowest-performing countries, a woman’s role is confined to her reproductive and caring responsibilities. This is reflected in both legal frameworks and social norms. Two-thirds of these countries only recognise men as heads of household, three times more than at the global level; 64% of the population say that children will suffer if the mother is working outside the home and 70% believe that men make better political leaders than women do. This leads to a high prevalence of discriminatory practices: 22% of adolescent girls are or have been ever married or in informal unions and women spend five times more time than men in unpaid care and domestic work, compared to 15% and 3 times at the global level, respectively. Legal discrimination, loopholes and inadequacy, as well as weak law enforcement and deeply entrenched acceptance of discriminatory social practices by communities, including women, still hamper global progress towards gender equality (see Figure 1.3, Box 1.2):

  • Comprehensive legal frameworks that guarantee women’s and men’s rights – regardless of their marital status, ethnicity, location, education, religion or income – are not yet the norm. The SIGI data on legal discrimination reveals that women in all countries continue to face legal discrimination in a myriad of places, including courtrooms or in the workplace. In 88 countries, for example, the law prohibits women from entering certain professions. Legal loopholes allow discrimination to continue, despite supposed equality or protection of women’s rights. For example, while most countries have established a minimum marriage age of 18, early marriage continues to be conducted legally due to provisions that allow parents or judges to consent to child marriage in 112 countries. While almost all countries have criminalised rape, perpetrators can escape prosecution if they marry the victim in 11 countries.

  • Laws and programmes are not always appropriate. Countries have also been slow, for example, to enact laws to protect women from emerging forms of gender-based violence. By the end of 2017, only ten countries provided women with legal protection from cyber harassment or cyber stalking. FGM is still not universally classified as harmful, despite increasing evidence of geographical extension of the practice, notably related to migration flows. Only 43 countries abide by international commitments and have enacted comprehensive laws criminalising FGM. Access to birth registration records is still restricted in some areas with implications for the rights of women to hold land, vote or register a business because a claim requires an identity card.

  • Laws and programmes are not always appropriate. Countries have also been slow, for example, to enact laws to protect women from emerging forms of gender-based violence. By the end of 2017, only ten countries provided women with legal protection from cyber harassment or cyber stalking. FGM is still not universally classified as harmful, despite increasing evidence of geographical extension of the practice, notably related to migration flows. Only 43 countries abide by international commitments and have enacted comprehensive laws criminalising FGM. Access to birth registration records is still restricted in some areas with implications for the rights of women to hold land, vote or register a business because a claim requires an identity card.

  • The implementation and enforcement of laws take time and are uneven within a country. In plural legal systems, where statutory law exists alongside customary, traditional or religious laws, women of certain groups may continue to face discrimination. This exposes the more vulnerable women to higher risk, especially those living in remote areas that are difficult to reach. Indigenous women in Bolivia, for example, experience double discrimination because they do not benefit from improved legal frameworks but are still governed by discriminatory indigenous laws. In some African and Asian countries, laws granting equality of access to land tenure are ignored and it remains a male privilege in many rural communities.

  • Even when legal frameworks to protect women’s rights exist, the lack of information, limited legal literacy and restricted access to the justice system limit women’s ability to claim their rights. In Burkina Faso, for example, only one-third of the population knows there is a legal minimum age of marriage for girls; one-tenth are aware that the law mandates equal inheritance rights for women and men. While there is often ignorance of laws governing family matters, workplace or political legislation may also be unrecognised: fewer than a third of the Burkinabé population, for example, knows there is a quota mandating 30% of women candidates on electoral lists (OECD, 2018[1]).

  • Where customary laws still largely determine communities’ and individuals’ behaviour, standard policies to promote gender equality are insufficient to create social transformation. Discriminatory customary and religious laws may undermine the implementation of gender-transformative statutory law and expose women and girls to continuing discriminatory practices. This is particularly true in remote areas and some Least Developed Countries with weak rule of law. In some African countries, for example, dowry payment is banned by state law but remains in practice for almost all weddings and 80% of the population continue to have it practiced because of religious or traditional beliefs.

  • Social norms weaken the implementation of gender-sensitive laws and policies and justify harmful and discriminatory practices. For example, despite legal frameworks addressing domestic violence in 132 countries, 27% of women globally accept that spousal violence is justifiable under certain circumstances. Similarly, despite criminalisation of FGM in 59 countries, 23% of women believe that FGM should continue. While more jurisdictions are introducing paternity-leave provisions, its uptake remains low. Paternity leave, on its own, is not enough to redistribute caring responsibilities within the household if men choose not to take it for fear of social stigma or because they feel their job might suffer from it. Therefore, while 91 countries have some sort of paternity-leave provisions in place, few fathers are taking time off to care for their children. Quotas can only support women’s political participation if women have the knowledge, support and time needed to run for office and if they feel supported doing so. Indeed, almost half of the world’s population (47%) believe that men make better political leaders than women do. In addition, without enforcement mechanisms, quotas may be ineffective on their own. Women occupy on average 26% of parliamentary seats in countries that have established quotas or other special measures, compared with 22% in countries where no special measures exist. Global outrage over the endemic nature of gender-based harassment points to the insufficiency of laws against harassment, especially when women do not report it, due to fear of retaliation, limited knowledge of legal recourses, lack of financial means or the belief that the authorities will not take them seriously.

Figure 1.3. SIGI’s approach
Box 1.2. Changes in gender norms do not always come from direct gender interventions

The SIGI’s approach recognises the multiplicity of entry points for change:

  • Government led-actions (e.g. legal reforms, gender-transformative policies and programmes): in Viet Nam, for example, awareness campaigns to highlight the health risks of adolescent pregnancy and the economic advantages of completing secondary school had challenged social acceptance towards early marriage (Marcus et al., 2015[2]);

  • Focusing on education: in Burkina Faso, the educated population is more likely to challenge deeply entrenched acceptance of early marriage and female genital mutilation (OECD, 2018[1]);

  • Further urbanisation: discriminatory social norms are more widespread in remote areas where community laws highly influence individuals’ beliefs and where social stigma may create severe deprivation. In urban areas, however, awareness campaigns and public policies are more likely to influence individuals’ opinions about the discriminatory aspect of some social norms (OECD, 2018[1]);

  • Economic development and improvements in a household’s economic situation: shift in discriminatory social norms affecting girls’ education and young women’s job opportunities in India and Bangladesh have been largely driven by recognition of the economic benefits of these activities (Jensen, 2012[3]; Hossain, 2011[4]). Adolescent girls living in wealthier households are less likely to be married than those from poor families (OECD, 2018[1]). Yet, economic growth alone is insufficient to accelerate gender equality;

  • Digitalisation: new technologies offer opportunities for a higher number of people to access information, but also to spread role models more widely (see Chapter 2).

Global progress and challenges by SIGI’s dimensions

Discrimination in the family seems to be the most difficult dimension to address. The SIGI shows that discrimination within the private sphere is an issue, regardless of the region or the income level (Figure 1.4). The global level of discrimination in the laws, social norms and practices in the family is 44% and reaches 56% and 53% on the African and Asian continents, respectively (Chapter 3). Even in the best-performing European countries, women and men still do not have the same status within the family (level of discrimination: 25%). There are notable major gender gaps in the performance of household responsibilities (60%), divorce (38%), child marriage (36%) and inheritance rights (34%). This is attributable to:

  • The unequal distribution of caring and domestic activities – women continue to bear 75% of the burden of unpaid care and domestic work;

  • The lower legal status of women – 41 countries recognised a man only as the head of households, while in 27 countries women are required by law to obey their husbands;

  • Legal loopholes over girl child marriage – 160 countries allow it, one way or another.

Despite women’s physical integrity having attracted much attention, guaranteeing women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights, as well as their freedom from violence, remain key challenges. The physical integrity dimension of the SIGI reflects a mixed picture: FGM and missing-women issues are clearly region-specific, while restricted reproductive autonomy and violence against women are undeniably universal. Globally, the level of restriction on women’s physical integrity is 22%, ranging from 4% in Canada to 57% in Guinea (Chapter 4). This is the best score across the four dimensions of the SIGI because FGM and the phenomenon of missing women mainly occur in Africa and Asia, respectively, automatically improving the restrictive physical integrity sub-index score in other regions of the world, and, hence, the global score. In these two indicators, the global level of discrimination is 6%. However, violence against women and restricted reproductive autonomy are universal and have pervasive impacts on women’s control over their bodies, with respective global levels of discrimination at 41% and 31%. This is notably due to:

  • The social acceptance of domestic violence – more than one in four women justifies men’s use of violence against their wife/partner; and

  • The lack of legal protection and infrastructure to promote women’s reproductive autonomy – abortion is illegal in 11 countries and very restricted in an additional 87 jurisdictions; 12% of women of reproductive age have unmet needs for family planning.

Figure 1.4. SIGI 2019 results by sub-index

Note: Global averages by SIGI sub-index, with the minimum and maximum scores.

Source: OECD (2019), Gender, Institutions and Development Database,

The economic case for women’s economic empowerment has been translated into political commitments to improve women’s access to productive and financial resources. The global level of discrimination in this sub-index is 27%, varying from 2% in Sweden to 80% in Kuwait (Chapter 5). While regional disparities are wide, some common challenges do exist. African (39%) and Asian (34%) women face the highest barriers to accessing productive and financial resources, compared to their European (13%) and American (22%) counterparts. In contrast to African (42%) and Asian (29%) countries, the best-performing European countries (9%) have almost achieved legal and substantive gender equality in access to and control over land, as women’s rights are seen as socially legitimate. Indeed, while all European countries provide women and men with equal rights to own, use and control land, legal barriers remain in ten and five African and Asian countries, respectively. However, discrimination against women’s workplace rights is a universal issue: the global level of discrimination is 44% (from 28% in Europe, to 59% in Asia). This is notably due to:

  • legal loopholes –19 countries do not mandate non-discrimination on the basis of sex in employment and 31 do not have laws requiring equal remuneration for work of equal value;

  • legal barriers – 94 countries restrict women’s access to employment; and

  • social norms that confine women to their reproductive and caring role – 50% of the global population believes that children will suffer when the mother is gainfully employed outside the home and 17% do not find it acceptable for a woman family member to have a job.

The upsurge of support for women’s rights activism has led to substantial advances in securing women’s civil liberties. The restricted civil liberties dimension of the SIGI gives a mixed picture. It indicates a global level of discrimination of 29%, from 4% in Senegal to 76% in Yemen (Chapter 6). In regional terms, North Africa (58%) remains the worst region in this respect, followed by Southern Asia (43%), Western Asia (42%) and South-east Asia (41%). Thanks to legal reforms, women’s citizenship rights (28%) have been improved. However, women’s access to justice (18%) and freedom of movement (24%) are restricted by insecurity and lack of trust in both judicial institutions and men. The gender gap in insecurity is larger in high-income countries. Women represent two-thirds of those who do not feel safe walking alone in their neighbourhoods in high-income countries. This proportion reaches nine out of ten in Finland and Iceland, but it falls to 58% in low-income countries. It is in the most patriarchal regions of the world that women feel safest: the sense of insecurity in sub-Saharan African and Western Asian countries is not linked to gender. Meanwhile, barriers to women’s political empowerment remain a universal issue. Globally, the high level of discrimination against women’s political voice (44%) is deeply entrenched in social expectations of what a woman’s role in public life should be:

  • 69 countries have no legal quotas or special measures or incentives for political parties to promote women’s political participation; and

  • Almost half of the world’s population (47%) believe that men make better political leaders than women do.

About the SIGI

The OECD Development Centre’s Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI) is a unique cross-country measure of discriminatory social institutions, that are formal and informal laws, social norms and practices that restrict women’s and girls’ rights, access to empowerment opportunities and resources.

The SIGI is comprised of four components:

  1. 1. Country profiles containing comprehensive qualitative information on legal frameworks and action plans to protect women’s rights and promote gender equality (for 180 countries);1

  2. 2. The Gender, Institutions and Development Database (GID-DB) comprising variables measuring the level of discrimination in laws (categorical variable), social norms (attitudinal data) and practices (prevalence rates) for 180 countries;2 and

  3. 3. A cross-country ranking classifying 120 countries according to their level of discrimination in social institutions (Annex A, Table A.1).

  4. 4. A policy simulator allowing policy makers to scope out reform options and assess their likely effects on gender equality in social institutions (

It is worth noting that, while the SIGI score is only available for 120 countries, some variables measuring the level of discrimination in laws, social norms or practices are available for each of 180 countries (Box 1.3).

The SIGI and its dimensions look at the gaps that legislation, attitudes and practices create between women and men in terms of rights and opportunities. The SIGI covers four dimensions, spanning major socio-economic areas that affect the entire lifetimes of women and girls and analysed in the SIGI as sub-indices (Figure 1.4 and Figure 1.5):

  • The discrimination in the family (DF) dimension captures social institutions that limit women’s decision-making power and undervalues their status in the household and the family;

  • The restricted physical integrity (RPI) dimension captures social institutions that increase women’s and girls’ vulnerability to a range of forms of violence and limit women’s control over their bodies and reproductive autonomy;

  • The restricted access to productive and financial resources (RAPFR) dimension captures women’s restricted access to and control over critical productive and economic resources and assets; and

  • The restricted civil liberties (RCL) dimension captures discriminatory laws and practices restricting women’s access, participation and voice in the public and social spheres.

Box 1.3. List of countries by region and sub region


  • Eastern Africa: Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia and South Sudan, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

  • Middle Africa: Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of Congo, and Sao Tome and Principe.

  • Northern Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia.

  • Southern Africa: Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa and Swaziland.

  • Western Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo.


  • The Caribbean: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago.

  • Central America: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama.

  • Northern America: Canada and the United States.

  • South America: Argentina, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Plurinational State of Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay.


  • Central Asia: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

  • Eastern Asia: China (People’s Republic of); Hong Kong, China; Japan; Korea; Mongolia and Chinese Taipei.

  • The Pacific: Australia, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Samoa and Solomon Islands.

  • South-eastern Asia: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Timor-Leste, Thailand and Viet Nam.

  • Southern Asia: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Islamic Republic of Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

  • Western Asia: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cyprus, Georgia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Yemen.


  • Eastern Europe: Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovak Republic and Ukraine.

  • Northern Europe: Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden and United Kingdom.

  • Southern Europe: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (now the Republic of North Macedonia),Greece, Italy, Kosovo, Malta, Montenegro, Portugal, Serbia, Slovenia and Spain.

  • Western Europe: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Switzerland.

Note by Turkey: The information in this document with reference to “Cyprus” relates to the southern part of the Island. There is no single authority representing both Turkish and Greek Cypriot people on the Island. Turkey recognises the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Until a lasting and equitable solution is found within the context of the United Nations, Turkey shall preserve its position concerning the “Cyprus issue”.

Note by all the European Union Member States of the OECD and the European Union: The Republic of Cyprus is recognised by all members of the United Nations with the exception of Turkey. The information in this document relates to the area under the effective control of the Government of the Republic of Cyprus.

Figure 1.5. The composition of the SIGI 2019


[4] Hossain, N. (2011), “Exports, equity, and empowerment: The effects of readymade garments manufacturing employment on gender equality in Bangladesh”, World Development Report 2012 Background Paper, (accessed on 21 January 2019).

[3] Jensen, R. (2012), “Do labor market opportunities affect young women’s work and family decisions? Experimental evidence from India”, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 127/2, pp. 753-92,

[2] Marcus, R. et al. (2015), How Do Gender Norms Change?, Overseas Development Institute, London, (accessed on 27 January 2019).

[1] OECD (2018), Étude pays SIGI: Burkina Faso, OECD, Paris, (accessed on 17 January 2019).


← 1. Available at

← 2. Available at The number of countries covered depends on data availability.

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