Women in nearly every region of the world are less likely than men to work the number of hours they want, according to a new Gallup poll that spoke with more than 187,000 adults worldwide.
The study released on Thursday found the widest gap in Ecuador and Saudi Arabia, where women were 23 percent less likely than men to be employed at capacity. In the US, the gap was 9 percentage points.
“Basically what it means is, it’s people who are working for an employer the number of hours they want to be working,” co--author Jenny Marlar said. “I was personally surprised at the number of countries where there was such a big difference.”
The reasons for the large gaps were not clear, but Marlar said the lag for women is probably strongly related to education and to local culture.
Rounding out the top 10 countries where the gender gap is the greatest were Bolivia, Honduras, Bahrain, Oman, El Salvador, Rwanda, Botswana and Mauritius. In all, the gap was 15 percentage points or more.
One surprise was Italy, where women trailed men by 13 percentage points. It was the only Western European country with a double-digit gap.
“I do not have a good reason for why,” Marlar said.
The top 10 countries where women were most likely to be working the number of hours they wanted to be working for an employer were Kuwait, Singapore, Sweden, Slovakia, Belgium, Finland, Denmark, Israel, Malta and Estonia.
However, women did not trail men everywhere. Men lagged women in a number of countries, led by Ireland, where women were more likely by 15 percentage points to be employed at capacity.
Interviews were conducted last year with adults in 144 countries.
Gallup started the poll in 2009 and repeats it every year. However, because the poll began after the start of the 2008 recession, it is hard to tell what role the weakened global economy has played in the results.
Nevertheless, the message remains the same every year, Marlar said: “There are not as many good opportunities for women.”