Equal Measures 2030 Data Hub
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SDG Gender Index Construction

In 2018, in response to the urgent need for tools to support data-driven analysis and to hold governments accountable for gender equality in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Equal Measures 2030 (EM2030) and partners launched the pilot SDG Gender Index. The pilot index included 43 indicators across 12 of the 17 official goals and was tested in six focus countries. The pilot index used a mix of official gender-related SDG indicators developed by the Inter-Agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs) and complementary indicators. Indicator scores were based on the relative position of a country to lowest and highest performing countries.

Drawing on several technical consultations and a formal review by the COIN team at the EU Joint Research Centre, EM2030 refined the initial index framework, introduced two new goals (SDG 9 and SDG 11) and revised the indicator framework. Other design issues were considered and adopted in relation to weighting, introduction of targets, and presentation issues. The resulting 2019 SDG Gender Index includes 51 indicators across 14 of the 17 SDGs and covers 129 countries across five regions.



The scale-up of the index was built upon the methodological framework of the pilot index. The design was adapted to increase the number of countries covered by the index and to ensure that it was transparent and easy-to-use for gender advocates around the world.

The index builds upon a standalone set of between three and five indicators for each goal. In the spirit of our approach that all indicators – even those not included in the official SDG framework or not traditionally considered “gendered” issues – capture important dimensions of gender equality, and the importance of country-generated data, the overall index is calculated based on the individual indicators, based on a threshold of at least 85% of the indicators (or 44 of the 51 indicators). The index scores for each of the 14 goals are calculated based on a threshold of 75% available data. The goals are calculated separately due to the need to not impute missing data, but to rely on data provided by national governments. A country could miss one goal and still be included in the index (e.g. China, Iraq, and Ireland).



The approach of the index is that examining gender-focused issues and data under each goal, even where no gender-specific official indicator exists, provides a more complete picture of both the goal itself and its relationship to gender equality. With the scale-up of the index from the pilot phase, existing indicators were assessed. In addition to new indicators for SDG 9 and SDG 11, the index includes 15 new or adjusted indicators. Some indicators from the pilot index were dropped due to poor data coverage (e.g. lacking coverage in higher income countries), some were altered to make use of improved data sources (e.g. the index includes a revised measure of women’s participation in senior government roles), and others are wholly new indicators (e.g. indicator on the proportion of female justices).

If the index is to serve as an accountability tool, it needs to enable users to measure distance to SDG targets for indicators, make regional comparisons, and trace scores over time. The approach to setting targets was to use official SDG targets where they existed and to set ideal high threshold targets for others (e.g. the target for women’s participation in parliament is gender parity or 47–53%). Categorical variables (none of which were binary) were adapted into composite indicators and assigned scores. Actual percentages and composite scores were normalised on a 1–100 scale to generate indicator scores on a common scale – where a higher number is closer to reaching the target.

Issues and Indicators

The 2019 SDG Gender Index examines gender focused issues and data under each Sustainable Development Goal – even where no gender-specific official indicator exists – and provides a more complete picture of both the goal itself and its relationship to gender equality. Explore the included issues and indicators below.

Indicator 1a

Proportion of the population living below the national poverty line


National poverty lines provide country-specific benchmarks for households living in poverty and can define the reach of social protection provided by a government. Intra-household gender differences can mean that women and girls feel the effects of poverty most acutely.

Indicator 1b

Proportion of the poorest quintile of the population covered by social assistance programs


Social protection can ease the impact of poverty and prevent backsliding on gender equality. Yet women are disproportionately excluded from effective social protection schemes,[1] even though protections narrow gender gaps in poverty rates and provide an economic lifeline for poor women. [2]

[1] UN Women, “Making Social Protection Gender-Responsive,” (New York: UN Women, 2017), http://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/attachments/sections/library/publications/2017/making-social-protection-gender-responsive-en.pdf?la=en&vs=2406.
[2] Ibid.

Indicator 1c

The extent to which laws afford women and men equal and secure access to land use, control and ownership


Discriminatory legislation and customary laws that govern the control of resources, including land, exacerbate poverty and gender inequality. Women’s inability to hold land titles limits their ability to use it as a source of productive income or collateral for loans, leaving them with less access to opportunities.

Indicator 1d

Proportion of women who report having had enough money to buy food that they or their family needed in the past 12 months


Women play an important role in food security in households and communities, as they are more likely to provide and prepare food for families. Yet they also have fewer economic opportunities and access to productive resources than men—in times of scarcity or when food is unaffordable, entire families suffer and women and girls are often the last to eat or eat the least. [3]

[3] WECF, “Gender and Food Security,” (2014), http://www.wecf.eu/download/2015/January/GenderandFoodsecurityguidancedoc2014.pdf.

Indicator 2a

Population below minimum level of dietary energy consumption (% of population)


Dietary energy consumption refers to food intake that is continuously below a minimum dietary energy requirement for maintaining an acceptable minimum body size and a healthy life. Women and girls represent 60% of under-nourished people in the world, which can cause stunting, wasting, maternal and fetal health complications, and other health issues for girls and women.

Indicator 2b

Prevalence of obesity among women aged 18+ years


Obesity has serious implications for global health and has almost tripled since 1975 [4]. Women’s obesity rates are double those of men in the WHO regions with the widest gender gaps – Africa, Eastern Mediterranean and South East Asia. Obesity rates are linked to women’s access to healthy foods, mobility, access to public spaces, and control of household finances [5].

[4] WHO, “Obesity and Overweight” (Geneva: WHO, 2018), http://www.who.int/en/news-room/factsheets/detail/obesity-and-overweight.
[5] R. Kanter and B. Caballero, “Global Gender Disparities in Obesity: A Review,” Advances in Nutrition 3 (no. 4): 491-498, July 2012, https://doi.org/10.3945/an.112.002063

Indicator 2c

Prevalence of anaemia amongst non-pregnant women (aged 15-49 years)


Anaemia contributes to one-fifth of all maternal deaths worldwide [6]. Anaemia underscores health disparities between and within countries. Affecting nearly one in three girls and women worldwide, it is life-threatening primarily for those living in developing countries.

[6] UN Women, 2018., http://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/sdg-report

Indicator 3a

Maternal mortality ratio (per 100,000 live births)


Safe pregnancy and childbirth are linchpins of women’s health. While maternal mortality has fallen globally since 1990, inequities persist across regions and within countries, with the highest rates of mortality among the poorest girls and women and those living in rural areas.

Indicator 3b

Adolescent birth rate (births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 years)


Gender inequalities drive high birth rates among adolescent girls, while early childbearing denies them vital opportunities, including education. Early pregnancy is linked to lack of access to reproductive health services and to the harmful practices of child, early and forced marriage.

Indicator 3c

Proportion of women married or in a union (aged 15-49 years) who have had their need for family planning satisfied with modern methods


Modern methods of family planning enable girls and women to make choices about their own bodies, avoid unwanted or dangerous pregnancies and space out their births, a practice that reduces the risks for women and babies and increases household investment in each child.

Indicator 4a

Proportion of female students enrolled in primary education who are over-age


In many poor and conflict-affected countries there is often a mismatch between a child’s age and their school grade which can affect school success. Children start late, repeat classes or drop out, and girls are likely to drop out or be pulled out of school when they are the wrong age for their grade [7].

[7] UIS, 2016, http://uis.unesco.org/sites/default/files/documents/fs37-leaving-no-one-behind-how-far-on-the-way-to-universal-primary-and-secondary-education-2016-en.pdf

Indicator 4b

Proportion of young women 3-5 years above the secondary school graduation age who have completed secondary education


Secondary education is an important enabling conditions for young women. When a girl in the developing world receives at least seven years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children [8]. Secondary education is an important predictive factor not only for poverty reduction, but also the reduction of human rights violations.

[8] Plan Canada, “Girl’s Rights: Fact Sheet” (Toronto: Plan Canada, n.d.), https://plancanada.ca/girl-facts

Indicator 4c

Proportion of women (aged 15-24 years) not in education, employment, or training


High rates of young women out of education or employment signal that they struggle to find work due to cultural barriers related to working outside the home, legal barriers that make it difficult to access credit, or structural barriers like limited access to secondary education or vocational training.

Indicator 4d

Literacy rate among adult (aged 15+ years) women


Literacy is a fundamental right for women. Despite the fact that literacy is essential for women’s equal participation in society – including engagement with education and healthcare systems – over 400 million women worldwide have insufficient literacy skills, i.e. have difficulty reading [9].

[9] UN Women, “Literacy has empowering effect on women, UN officials say,” (2010), https://news.un.org/en/story/2010/09/350122-literacy-has-empowering-effect-women-un-officials-say

Indicator 5a

Proportion of women aged 20-24 years married or in a union before age 18


Child marriage undermines girls’ basic rights, health, education and economic prospects. The practice also harms entire countries: World Bank estimates that ending child marriage would increase national earnings by, on average, 1%.

Indicator 5b

Proportion of women who agree that a husband/ partner is justified in beating his wife/partner


Domestic violence and gender-based violence emerge from discriminatory social norms that govern attitudes and behaviours. According to UNICEF “data on attitudes towards wife-beating offer clues on how girls and women are perceived within a given society.” [10]

[10] UNICEF, “Attitudes and Social Norms on Violence”. (New York: UNICEF, November 2017), https://data.unicef.org/topic/child-protection/violence/attitudes-and-social-norms-on-violence/

Indicator 5c

The extent to which there are legal grounds for abortion (score)


Safe abortion services are critical to women’s ability to make choices about their own bodies and have agency over their reproductive health. Yet it has been calculated that 6% of the world’s 1.6 billion women of reproductive age live in countries where abortion is banned, and only 37% in countries where it is allowed without restriction [11].

[11] Guttmacher Institute, “Induced Abortion Worldwide” (New York: Guttmacher, 2018,) https://www.guttmacher.org/fact-sheet/induced-abortion-worldwide

Indicator 5d

Proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments


Women are critically under-represented in national parliaments. Under- representation of women in national governments is a rights issue and has detrimental effects on society, as bodies that govern citizens’ daily lives miss the perspectives and experiences of half the population. More female lawmakers are associated with improved government accountability, more passed legislation, and increased compromise between political factions.

Indicator 5e

Proportion of ministerial/senior government positions held by women


Parity at all levels of government is fundamental to rights of equal representation and to create an enabling environment for equality and good governance. Yet data from the IPU reveal that in 2019, less than 10% of world leaders were women and 20% of government ministers were women [12].

[12] IPU, IPU, “Women in Politics 2017” (Geneva: IPU, 2017), https://www.ipu.org/resources/publications/infographics/2017-03/women-in-politics-2017

Indicator 6a

Proportion of population using at least basic drinking water services


Access to clean drinking water from a protected external source (such as boreholes, protected springs and piped water) or in the home (whenever needed and free of contamination) is critical to the daily lives of girls and women, who bear the disproportionate burden of water collection chores that can be time-consuming and detrimental to their health.

Indicator 6b

Proportion of population using at least basic sanitation services


Sanitation services are essential for overall development. Yet women in developing countries – particularly the poorest, most marginalised and those displaced by conflict or disaster – often rely on unsafe communal sanitation facilities that expose them to health risks and sexual violence.

Indicator 6c

Proportion of women who report being satisfied with water quality in the city or area where they live


Women and girls, as the primary collectors, managers, and users of household water, are most impacted by its quality. Access to clean water close to the home can dramatically reduce women’s workloads and care burden, as it can reduce illnesses caused by contaminated water sources.

Indicator 7a

Proportion of population with access to electricity


Men and women have different needs for energy use, and benefit in different ways from increased access to electricity. Electricity is important for household chores managed mostly by women, including food preparation, and for home-based micro-enterprises.

Indicator 7b

Proportion of population with primary reliance on clean fuels and technology


The use of clean fuels can improve the health of women and children and ease time burdens for girls and women. Girls in households using clean fuels can spend five hours a week on average gathering fuel, compared to 18 hours for households using solid fuels [13].

[13] IEA, 2006, https://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/cooking.pdf

Indicator 7c

Proportion of women who report being satisfied with the quality of air where they live


For women in low- and middle-income countries, household air pollution is a leading environmental health risk and main cause of noncommunicable diseases like strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and heart disease. More than 60% of premature deaths from household air pollution are among women and children [14].

[14] WHO, https://www.who.int/life-course/news/household-air-pollution/en/

Indicator 8a

Wage equality between men and women for similar work (score)


Women, on average, earn less than men in nearly every single occupation for which there is sufficient earnings data for both men and women to calculate an earnings ratio. Earning disparities contribute to income inequality, gaps in labor force participation rates between men and women, and inequalities in lifetime earnings, pensions, and savings.

Indicator 8b

Proportion of women recognized as “contributing family workers” (as a % of total female employment)


High rates of women’s work in particularly vulnerable roles within the informal economy are linked to women’s lack of access to secondary education and vocational training, barriers to their legal entry into the formal workforce, and a lack of government policies to support their work.

Indicator 8c

Extent of freedom of association and collective bargaining rights in law (score)


Workers’ ability to freely associate, form unions, and engage in collective bargaining is particularly critical to women’s abilities to advocate for better working conditions, improve wages, and implement policies that protect them from workplace dangers (including harassment and violence).

Indicator 8d

Extent to which a country has laws mandating women's workplace equality (score)


Women face legal barriers to economic participation, including access to ID documents and obstacles to property, getting a job or building credit. The need for more equitable legal frameworks is recognised in SDG target 8.5, though lack indicators on legal reform or targets for women’s economic rights.

Indicator 8d

Proportion of women who hold a bank account at a financial institution


When women make their own decisions about how to spend their own money, and when they have more control over their own finances and those of their household, they are more likely to channel resources to food, water, children’s education and healthcare [15].

[15] L. Kienzle, “Helping Women Control Their Financial Lives through Digital Financial Services”, Center for Financial Inclusion Blog, July 26, 2018 (Washington, DC: CFI, 2018), https://cfi-blog.org/2017/06/23/helping-women-control-their-financial-lives-through-digital-financial-services/

Indicator 9a

Proportion of women who made or received digital payments in the past year


Digital technologies can transform women’s lives in a myriad of ways, not only enabling women to earn money, but also to access a full range of financial services, control their own earnings, and, increasingly, use remote delivery of government services like healthcare and civic participation tools.

Indicator 9b

Proportion of women who report being satisfied with road quality in the city or area where they live


Good access to quality and sustainable infrastructure, including roads, is an essential determinant of women’s mobility and ability to access services, and a basic requirement for local and national economies to prosper.

Indicator 9c

Proportion of women with access to internet service


In the digital age, internet literacy has become essential for civic participation and employment in many fields, and information and communications technologies fuel many countries’ economic development. Yet women and girls run the risk of being left behind: in low- and middle-income countries, significant gender gaps exist in internet access and digital literacy.

Indicator 9d

Proportion of women in science and technology research positions


As the world transitions to an economy that is increasingly driven by advanced technologies, closing the global gender gap in science, technology, engineer-ing, and math (STEM) education, research, and work is crucial to empowering women and addressing the shortage of qualified workers in these fields.

Indicator 10a

Palma inequality ratio (income of the richest 10% of the population divided by the poorest 40%)


Countries where women lack equal rights and access to services, and where their outcomes are poorer than those of men, also tend to be countries with large gaps between their richest and poorest citizens.

Indicator 10b

Level of personal autonomy, individual rights, and freedom from discrimination (score)


Countries’ legal and political systems – including their ability to protect personal autonomy, individual rights of all persons, and freedom from discrimination – are crucial foundations for legal guarantees of rights for girls and women.

Indicator 10c

Proportion of ratified human rights instruments regarding migration


Ratification of human rights instruments on migration is a signal of commitment to increasing equity between developed and developing nations, as well as meeting the needs of disadvantaged and marginalised populations—both key tenets of SDG 10 that has critical implications for gender equality.

Indicator 11a

Proportion of women who report having had enough money to provide adequate shelter or housing in the past 12 months


With increasing urbanization globally, housing affordability is critical to ensuring that cities provide healthy and safe living environments for all citizens. Housing deficits and poor living conditions impose extra burdens on women and girls, who spend more time at home on household and unpaid labor—in polluted urban slums, it is most often women who spend the most time in areas heavily polluted by unclean cookstoves and who wash clothing in contaminated water sources.

Indicator 11b

Annual mean level of fine particulate matter


Fine particulate matter, a measure of air pollution, has significant effects on the health and quality of life of all urban residents. It impacts women’s wellbeing, causing a range of respiratory and maternal health issues, for example, which are exacerbated by household pollution from cooking on stoves or fires with polluting fuels.

Indicator 11c

Percentage of women aged 15+ years who report that they “feel safe walking alone at night in the city or area where you live”


Gender gaps in perceptions of safety show how women around the world – in both developed and developing countries – reflect restrictions on mobility, access to public spaces, transport and their ability to decide where and what hours to work.

Indicator 13a

The extent to which a country delegation at the UN climate negotiations is gender balanced (score)


Women’s participation at the UN climate negotiations has improved in recent years, but women remain significantly under-represented [16]. Gender-balanced UNFCCC teams is an issue of women’s basic right to representation—but it is also an important way of bringing the lived experiences of women dealing with climate change into formal climate negotiations.

[16] UNFCC, Achieving the goal of gender balance (Geneva: UNFCC, 2017), https://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2017/tp/08.pdf

Indicator 13b

Extent to which a state is committed to disaster risk reduction (Sendai Framework)


Countries’ commitment to implementing and funding disaster risk reduction strategies is critical to mitigating the threats posed by disasters. Due to existing gender inequalities, women and girls are most at risk in the detrimental short-term effects of climate change, such as landslides, floods and hurricanes.

Indicator 13c

Level of climate vulnerability (score)


Women and girls are more vulnerable than men and boys to many effects of climate change, as they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent on natural resources that are threatened by climate change [17].

[17] UN Women, https://www.un.org/womenwatch/feature/climate_change/downloads/Women_and_Climate_Change_Factsheet.pdf

Indicator 16a

Proportion of children <5 years whose births were registered with a civil authority


While registration rates for girls and boys are almost equal, lack of registration has a disproportionate impact on girls and women. It denies girls birth certificates that can prove their age and prevent child marriage [18].

[18] J. Lomelin, “How Birth Certificates Help Combat Child Marriage,” December 2, 2014 (London: Girls Not Brides) https://www.girlsnotbrides.org/birth-certificates-help-tackle-child-marriage/

Indicator 16b

Female victims of intentional homicide (per 100,000 population)


While most victims of lethal violence are men, violence against women is pervasive and the rates of women killed by intentional homicide vary widely by country. An estimated 35% of women have experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives.

Indicator 16c

Percentage of seats held by women on a country’s Supreme Court or highest court


Gender equality on courts is crucial for participatory decision making, ensuring that judicial systems offer and enforce women’s legal protections, and mitigating the discrimination and hostility that many women and marginalised groups face from authorities (for example in reporting sexual violence).

Indicator 16d

Extent to which a state is viewed as legitimate, open, and representative (score)


Progress across the entire 2030 Agenda requires strong and accountable government institutions. The general breakdown in law, order, and state institutions (e.g., that occurs during conflict) is particularly dangerous for women, including higher rates of gender-based violence [19].

[19] EM2030, “Data Driving Change,” (2018), https://www.equalmeasures2030.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/EM2030-2018-Global-Report.pdf

Indicator 17a

Social expenditure as a % of GDP (for all types of social assistance programs)


Social assistance (like cash transfers, social pensions, school feeding, in-kind transfers, fee waivers and public works) is important for girls and women who have particular economic and social vulnerabilities and bear a greater burden of care within families.

Indicator 17b

Tax revenue as a % of GDP


Tax revenues are a critical measure of a government’s ability to provide basic services – including water, sanitation, energy, as well as health and education. In the developing world, adequate financing of public services is a pressing issue with special gender relevance, and taxes in developing countries account for 10-40% of GDP [20].

[20] Caren Grown, “Gender Impacts of Government Revenue Collection,”https://www.shareweb.ch/site/DDLGN/Documents/Gender%20Impacts%20of%20Government%20Revenue%20Collection_Barnett%20and%20Grown%20(2004).pdf

Indicator 17c

Extent to which a national budget is broken down by factors such as gender, age, income, or region (score)


Gender budgeting is a key measure of a government’s fiscal commitment to gender equality. Recognising that fiscal policies have gender-related implications, IMF suggests instruments known to have a positive impact on gender equality, such as tax benefits to increase the female labour supply and improved family benefits.

Indicator 17d

Openness of gender statistics (score)


Gender statistics and sex-disaggregated data – for example, covering demography, education, health, access to economic opportunities, public life and decision-making, and agency – are vital for responsible policy decisions that improve the lives of girls and women. Yet data that reflect basic aspects of girls’ and women’s lives can be lacking, uncollected, or unpublished.

Indicators Used

The following criteria were used to guide the selection of indicators for the 2019 SDG Gender Index.

  • Indicator relevance

    • Measures an issue that is seen as baseline top priority, ideally between 2015 and 2017 and not older than 2010. To be included, a country must have data for specific index indicators of an SDG target
  • Advocacy

    • Can be used to hold specific stakeholders accountable
    • It is relevant for women and girls in both rich and poor countries
  • Data availability

    • Captures the current situation, not older than 2012
    • Is available for at least 80% of the countries in the world
  • SDG alignment

    • Aligns to the intention of specific SDG targets
    • Captures a unique dimension of progress towards SDG targets
  • Ease of use

    • It is calculated in a way that is transparent for users
    • It is easily understood and provides a clear measure of progress
  • Transformational potential

    • It reflects the voices of women and girls
    • It represents new and innovative ways of capturing lived realities

Beyond Existing Gender Indices

The 2019 SDG Gender Index goes beyond existing gender indices that, for the most part, focus on a few key domains of gender equality. While these issues are crucial for gender equality, they do not reflect the impact of a wide range of interrelated and vital issues for girls and women, including nutrition, water, sanitation, energy and fiscal and tax policies. Indeed, some of these areas are relatively or entirely ‘gender blind’ in the official SDG framework, with no gender-specific indicators. The more holistic approach of the 2019 SDG Gender Index to monitor gender progress across the SDGs is one of its key distinguishing features.

Three existing gender indicator frameworks were consulted in the design of the index:

  • UN Women’s SDG Indicator Framework maps gender-related indicators in the SDGs, and more recently, the UN Women Turning Promises into Action report noted that only 54 of the 232 SDG indicators explicitly target girls or women, or call for reporting that is disaggregated by sex, and that sufficient and regular data are available for only ten of these at present. While UN Women is exploring gender issues across all of the SDGs, it has no current plans to create a gender index on these issues.

  • The UN Minimum Set of Gender Indicators agreed by the UN Statistical Commission in 2013 to guide national production and international compilation of gender statistics is a collection of 52 quantitative indicators and 11 legal/policy indicators addressing relevant issues related to gender equality. It covers seven SDGs and 11 of its 52 indicators are included in the 2019 SDG Gender Index.

  • The Ready to Measure study produced by Data2X is another helpful tool. It presents 20 indicators (16 identical to or closely related to the official SDG indicators and four complementary indicators) that are currently ready to report. It covers gender issues in five SDGs. Seven of the 20 indicators in the Ready to Measure are included in the 2019 SDG Gender Index.

JRC Statistical Audit of the SDG Gender Index

In 2019, the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) conducted an audit of the EM2030 SDG Gender Index in order to ensure the transparency and reliability of the index. The audit focuses on two main issues in the index: the conception and statistical coherence of the framework (hierarchical structure of indicators); and the impact of modelling assumptions on the index rankings.

Download the JRC Statistical Audit here

Equal Measures 2030 Partners