TOKYO -- The Philippines came first in Asia in the World Economic Forum's latest gender equality rating, announced on Tuesday, while the region's largest economies, including Japan and South Korea, remained far below the global average.
The Global Gender Gap Index 2018 ranks 149 countries on health, education, economic and political indicators, including wage equality, educational attainment and representation in national government.
The Philippines was ranked the highest in Asia at eighth, climbing two spots from the previous year. It showed improvements in economic factors, with increased wage equality and women's income. While the country recorded its highest score this year, the health and survival gender gap remained open.
The Philippines' gender gap is fully closed in the educational attainment subindex. Its performance is also relatively high for political empowerment, positioned at 13th in the global ranking. According to the World Bank, 30% of seats in its parliament were held by women in 2017, which in the past has had two female presidents.
Next in the Asian ranking is Laos at 26th, spiking up by 38 spots from last year. The rise was largely due to improved data availability to determine some indicators, including estimated earned income and professional and technical workers. The country also showed progress in female education levels.
In the Pacific, New Zealand was ranked seventh globally, up two spots from the previous year. It showed improvements on the political empowerment subindex, and also fully closed the educational attainment gender gap for the first time since 2015.
Despite their economic presence, Asia's largest economies -- South Korea, Japan, China and India -- were among the lowest ranking G20 countries below the top 100, scoring lower than the global average.
Japan and South Korea, in spite of climbing up a few spots this year, remained in the low ranks at 110th and 115th. Japan was ranked 125th in the political empowerment subindex, while South Korea ranked 124th in economic participation and opportunity.
Both countries showed progress across the economic participation and opportunity indicators. Japan showed improvement on the women in parliament indicator. South Korea fully closed its gender gap in enrollment in secondary education, though the gap for tertiary education remained.
China and India, accounting for one third of the world's population, showed improvements in economic and educational factors but performed low in the health and survival indicators, dragging down the global average.
China fell three spots to 103rd, remaining the lowest in the health category with widened gender gap in healthy life expectancy. It has fully closed gaps in professional roles and tertiary enrollment, "pointing to a positive scenario for the integration of women in the white-collar workforce," the report said.
India, ranked the same as the previous year at 108th, was the third-lowest and the least-improved country in the health and survival subindex.
Southeast Asian countries were largely in the middle and lower range of the ranking.
Singapore, at 67th, was one of the countries with the smallest gender gaps in the fast growing artificial intelligence talent pool. In research conducted by the WEF and LinkedIn, female representation in Singapore's AI talent pool was 28%, higher than the global representation of 23%.
Thailand climbed the ranking to 73rd, narrowing the gender gap for educational attainment. Brunei leaped up 12 spots to rank in 90th, narrowing gaps in women's labor force participation. Malaysia also moved up to 101st, recording greater representation of women in its parliament.
Asia has a long way to go to achieve gender equality, as the report predicted it would take 70 years for South Asia to fully close the gap at the current rate, while the figure extends much longer for East Asia and the Pacific region at 171 years.
Overall, gender equality was led by smaller European countries, with Iceland, Norway and Sweden the top scoring nations. The global gender gap narrowed slightly this year, with progress for income equality and representation of women in leadership roles.