Asia and the Pacific

With an average regional index score of 64.6 / 100, the Asia and the Pacific region falls right in the middle of the five regions covered by the 2019 SDG Gender Index. The region is home to three of the overall index’s top 25 performers, Australia, Japan and New Zealand, but no other countries in the region cross into “good” overall index scores. The difference between the highest ranked and lowest-ranked countries in the region (Australia and Pakistan) is 36 points – the second largest gap within any region in the world.

Gender Equality Context

The region outperforms the global average on SDG 2: Hunger & Nutrition, SDG 3: Health, and SDG 6: Water & Sanitation and falls a bit behind global averages across SDG 5: Gender Equality, Goal 8: Work & Economic Growth, SDG 10: Inequality, SDG 16: Peace & Institutions, and SDG 17: Partnerships. The region is also characterized by dramatically wide intra-regional gaps on several goals, in particular SDG 4: Education (more than 62-point gap between top and bottom countries), SDG 9: Industry, Infrastructure Innovation (57-point gap), SDG 13: Climate ( 64-point gap), SDG 16: Peace & Institutions (61-point gap) and SDG 17: Partnerships (63-point gap).

Key Findings

  • The region is the second lowest performer on the measure of women’s ability to rise to the top ranks of national governments; only 3 countries in the region are more than half way toward the target of full gender parity equity in ministries or senior government positions (Indonesia, New Zealand, and Philippines).
  • On SDG 4: Education, for example, the six top scoring countries in the region score over 90, while Pakistan is the lowest scoring country on this goal due to low rates of girls who have completed secondary education and relatively low rates of female literacy.
  • On SDG 2: Hunger & Nutrition, the region does better than the global average – ranking second out the five regions – in large part because of lower rates of obesity among women in Asia. Even Australia and New Zealand, the region’s two countries with the highest rates of obesity among women, still have lower rates of obesity than the worst performer on the indicator in any other region.
  • Asia and the Pacific region performs better on the indicator related to disaster risk reduction (Sendai Framework) than any other region in the world, and six countries have fully met the index target – though the regional average for the indicator is still a “very poor” grade.

Thematic Deep Dive

Persistent inequalities in girls’ education

The Asia and the Pacific region has rallied around the goal of achieving universal education with a focus on ensuring that no one is left behind, including girls and those who face economic, cultural, and other disadvantages. The life-cycle approach used by the education indicators in the index – tracking key transition points in girls’ education from primary and secondary education to post-schooling labour market status and literacy skills – provides insights into girls’ schooling trajectories in the region.

Girls’ access to education varies across Asia and the Pacific. One of the sub‑regions facing persistent challenges in gender equality in education is South Asia, particularly Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan. In 2018, the number of primary and secondary school‑age girls was 186.2 million in the three countries, representing 52% of girls in the entire Asia and Pacific region. New policies have improved parity in primary education, but inequalities still persist at higher levels of schooling.

India broadened access through accelerated learning programmes that provided basic skills and primary education qualifications to adolescent girls. School stipends in Bangladesh have supported girls to make the transition to secondary education.Pakistan lags behind: the National Education Policy Plan for 2017-2025 even sets different target years for universalizing primary education (2020 for boys and 2025 for girls).

If the goal is universal secondary education, then there is still a very long way to go in these three countries.