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Visualizing the Human Development Gender Gap

on Tue, 03/10/2015 - 04:42

The celebration of the International Women's Day on March 8th this year 2015 made a worldwide call for a better gender equality. Measuring, analyzing and visualizing gender inequality helps institutions, organizations, civil society and the general public to have the required evidence to prioritize resources and interventions in critical countries and population groups in order to move forward the fight against gender inequality.

In 2013, we commemorated the International Women's Day with the post "Gender Inequality Around the World", visualizes the geographic distribution of the Gender Inequality Index (GII) from 1995 to 2011. This year 2015, we want to highlight the same issue but from a different angle, visualizing the gender gap (absolute and relative differences between women and men) in human development.  

International Development indicators published in the Human Development Report 2014 from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was the data source to accomplish the goal of visualizing the gender gap. 

Three summary metrics were selected: 

  1. Human Development Index (HDI) is a composite index measuring average achievement in three basic dimensions of human development—a long and healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living. See Technical Note 1 for details on how the HDI is calculated.
  2. Gender Development Index -female to male ratio of HDI- (GDI) is a composite measure reflecting disparity in human development achievements between women and men in three dimensions—health, education and living standards.See Technical Note 4 for details on how the Gender-related Development Index is calculated.
  3. Gender Inequality Index (GII) is a composite measure reflecting inequality in achievements between women and men in three dimensions: reproductive health, empowerment and the labour market. See Technical Note 3 for details on how the Gender Inequality Index is calculated.

Data are available to download from the UNDP International Development Indicators - data page.    

The visualization includes an Equiplot (left side of the dashboard) to show the magnitude and disparities of the human development index (HDI) between men and women. HDI is at x-axis and all countries with available data are located by rows. Two scatter plots are included at the right-side of the visualization to show the relationship between HDI and GDI, and GII and GDI. All these three visual forms are dynamically connected. Readers are encourage to interact with the visualization for displaying countries by metrics using the selector located above the equiplot, hovering the cursor over any symbol in charts and clicking on any country or symbol to get detailed information of data points.  

Key findings

  • Niger exhibits the lowest (worst situation) HDI in females with a value of 0.27
  • Norway has the best situation of HDI in females with a value of 0.94
  • Afghanistan exhibits the biggest gender gap in the HDI, having a HDI in women of 0.33, 0.2 less than the HDI in males (0.53).  In term of the higher absolute gender gap, Afganistan is followed by Pakistan (0.12), Yemen (0.12) , Iran (0.1) and Moroco (0.09).
  • Croatia, France, Bahrain, Namibia, Romania, Kuwait and Lesotho are the top seven countries in term of equality in HDI between males and females with absolute differences equal to zero. However, Namibia has a HDI of 0.62 (a medium HDI) and Lesotho has a HDI of 0.47 (a low HDI)
  • More than twenty countries among those with HDI in females lower than in males have high absolute differences of HDI between females and males over 0.08 
  • Countries with higher human development are more equal in female to male human development ratio
  • Countries with high gender inequality tend to have lower female to male human development ratio 

A significant progress and improvement in gender equality has been observed in the latest two decades in most of the countries as a result of implemented policies and interventions. High gender inequality persist today as illustrated in the interactive visualization. Many more need to be done for a better gender equality.
Visualizing gender inequality measures helps to advocate and fight for improving gender equality and protection of girls and women around the world.  


  1. Human Development Report 2014. Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 2014. [Accessed on March 9, 2015]
  2. Human Development Report Technical Notes 2014. UNDP. [Accessed on March 9, 2015]

P.S. The data visualization featured in this article Visualizing the Human Development Gender Gap was selected as one of the 9 semi-finalists of the Human Development Data Visualization Competition which was organized by the Human Development Report Office (HDRO) and conducted in the context of the Cartagena Data Fest, Cartagena, Colombia, April 20-21, 2015.

HDRO says about this visualization:

"This entry is one of the 9 submissions to the Human Development Data Visualization Competition which stood out either in terms of aesthetics, communications, technique or originality. Kindly note that some data used were not vetted by HDRO."

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