Here are the 5 biggest wage gaps in the world and how they continue to exist

On Monday, women across France protested their country’s persistent gender wage gap by leaving work early, and last month, women in Iceland did the same thing. No country has completely figured out how to pay female workers the same as men, and as much as we like to complain about America’s depressing gap, the biggest wage gaps in the world show that many places have it much, much worse.

French women left work Nov. 7 at 4:34 p.m., as the remaining 38.2 work days left in the year symbolized the difference in men and women’s pay in the country, according to feminist newsletter Les Glorieuses’ website. Similarly, Icelandic women left work early in October in protest of the country’s 14 percent gender wage gap. France’s gap is also about 14 percent, compared to about 20 percent in the U.S. (with even larger gaps for women of color).

While not every country measures wage gaps in the same way, they’re especially wide in the parts of the world where women face more discrimination overall — namely the Middle East and Africa. Where conservative religious and cultural traditions push for women to stay home and look after their families, it’s far less likely women will even enter the work force, and when they do, they have limited and underpaid options. Let’s take a look at where it’s most severe.


Sanaa Panorama
CREDIT: kbros/iStock

The World Economic Forum (WEF) ranked Yemen as the worst country in the world in terms of gender gaps. Women only make up 26 percent of the workforce, according to the WEF’s 2015 report, and have an estimated earned monthly income (which takes into account wages and labor force participation) of $1,675 (USD), compared to men’s $6,206. Women in the country are seen as lesser than across the board, with violence against women a common occurrence and females needing men’s permission to do most things, despite the constitution declaring men and women are equal.


female muslim students protest
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Pakistan didn’t fare well in the WEF 2015 assessment either, with an even larger wage gap. For women in Pakistan, the estimated earned income is $1,503, while men make $8,000. Pakistan’s majority Muslim culture still places an emphasis on guarding women from the outside world, which keeps many at home, so they’re seen as less valuable employees. The number of women entering the workforce has been rising, but on top of being paid unfairly, 70 percent of working women report facing sexual harassment on the job.


Landscape photo of bunched up houses in Amman, Jordan
CREDIT: vintagerobot/iStock

The WEF report says women in Jordan make up only 16 percent of the labor force and have an estimated earned monthly income of $3,604 and men have one of $20,163. A World Bank Group report on gender in Jordan revealed that a lot of women run informal businesses out of their homes and notes that a very segregated labor market offers few opportunities for women, and most are in civil services.


Row of Iran Flags in Front of Tehran Skyline
CREDIT: BornaMir/iStock

Iran has a similarly wide gap in terms of estimated earned monthly incomes, with women making $4,787 and men making $27,744. Female employees make up 18 percent of the labor force, in large part due to cultural expectations that women will get married, have kids, and look after said kids. A husband also have the legal right to keep his wife from taking a job he finds “incompatible with the family interests or the dignity of himself or his wife.”


Jezzine, Lebanon
CREDIT: dkaranouh/iStock

Lebanon also has horribly unequal estimated earned monthly incomes, with women’s coming in at $6,998 and men’s at $27,891, according to the WEF. Ranked the eighth worst country for gender equality overall, women make up 26 percent of the work force and men still have a lot of power over what the women in the family do in terms of work, income, and property. According to the International Finance Corporation (IFC), only 3 percent of bank loans go to female entrepreneurs.

Obviously where women aren’t valued as equal humans, they aren’t going to make as much money. The world has a lot of work to do and every country needs to play its part.