The Gender Development Index (GDI) and the Gender Inequality Index (GII) are the indices proposed by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to assess the position of women in society. However, they give us distinct information on gender inequalities: on one hand, the GDI uses the same components of the Human Development Index (HDI) – longevity, education and income – revealing whether human development achievements are distributed between the two genders (i.e., it shows the ratio of women to men); on the other hand, the GII uses distinct components – reproductive health, labour market participation and empowerment – forming an index ideally focused on gender inequalities, with greater attention to the female side.


The GDI is not exactly a measure of gender inequalities, but rather a reference on the disadvantage (or advantage) of women in the HDI components. Since it is a ratio, the closer to 1 the result, the more balanced the situation between men and women is, thus revealing that there aren’t great variations in the HDI results for both genders; on the contrary, the closer to 0, the more unbalanced the HDI results between men and women are.

The only country in the world that achieves a “perfect” result (1,000) is Ukraine, although there are many countries that also come close to this figure – Burundi (0.999), Slovenia (1.001), Dominican Republic (0.999), among others. Women are also in an advantageous position (>1,000) over men in 19 countries on the list. The countries with the least satisfactory results are Yemen (0.488) and Afghanistan (0.660), which means that women are far behind in terms of human development in these territories.


Table 1 - Gender Development Index (GDI) (2019)

wdt_ID Country GDI
1 Latvia 1,036
2 Lithuania 1,030
3 Qatar 1,030
4 Mongolia 1,023
5 Panama 1,019
6 Estonia 1,017
7 Uruguay 1,016
8 Lesotho 1,014
9 Moldova 1,014
10 Nicaragua 1,012
Country GDI

Source: Human Development Report 2020 (UNDP)


Given the world average (0.943), it can be said that, although women are still at a disadvantage compared to men, human development gains are being distributed equally world-wide. If we consider the regions of the world, the Arab States (0.856) have the lowest gender development, while Latin America and the Caribbean (0.978) achieve the best result in this index.

Curiously, if we take into account the categories by HDI level, we conclude that the group of countries with Medium HDI (0.835) reaches the lowest result in the GDI, behind the group with Low HDI (0.861). This means that gains in human development may not be distributed between both genders. Since the variations between genders in the HDI indicators are not shocking, the results of GDI may not vary much, which can give us a wrong idea about the female situation and reveal nothing about social inequalities.


Table 2 - Gender Development Index (GDI) by categories (2019)

wdt_ID Category GDI
2 Very High HDI 0,981
3 High HDI 0,961
4 Medium HDI 0,835
5 Low HDI 0,861
7 Regions
8 Arab States 0,856
9 East Asia and the Pacific 0,961
10 Europe and Central Asia 0,953
11 Latin America and the Caribbean 0,978
Category GDI

Source: Human Development Report 2020 (UNDP)


UNDP has sought to go beyond GDI and form an index focused on gender inequalities through indicators where women are generally at disadvantage – hence GII results show more variation. The logic of the GII is the opposite of that of the GDI: the closer the results are to 0, the less gender inequalities exist in a given territory.

Unlike the GDI, there is no country that achieves the “perfect” result (0.000), although there are some that are quite close – Switzerland (0.025), Denmark (0.038), Sweden (0.039), among others. On the other hand, we can identify countries whose results are far from 0, showing societies where women are at disadvantage – Yemen (0.795), Papua New Guinea (0.725), Chad (0.710), among others.


Table 3 - Gender Inequality Index (GII) (2019)

wdt_ID Country GII
1 Switzerland 0,025
2 Denmark 0,038
3 Sweden 0,039
4 Belgium 0,043
5 Netherlands 0,043
6 Norway 0,045
7 Finland 0,047
8 France 0,049
9 Iceland 0,058
10 Slovenia 0,063
Country GII

Fonte: Human Development Report 2020 (UNDP)


When the world average (0.436) is taken into account, it is remarkable that the female situation is far below that of the male. In geographical terms, Europe and Central Asia (0.256) is the region with the best score on this index, while sub-Saharan Africa (0.570) has the least satisfactory score. Regarding the categories by HDI level, we find, contrary to what was revealed by the GDI, that the higher the HDI level, the smaller are the gender inequalities – there is a worrying gap between the group of countries with very high HDI (0.173) and those with low HDI (0.592).


Table 4 - Gender Inequality Index (GII) by categories (2019)

wdt_ID Category GII
2 Very High HDI 0,173
3 High HDI 0,340
4 Medium HDI 0,501
5 Low HDI 0,592
7 Regions
8 Arab States 0,518
9 East Asia and the Pacific 0,324
10 Europe and Central Asia 0,256
11 Latin America and the Caribbean 0,389
Category GII

Fonte: Human Development Report 2020 (UNDP)


Evolution of GDI and GII in Portugal

In the first GDI calculation in 1995, Portugal already ensured a good result, reaching 0.972, which evolved to 0.988 in 2019. Thus, it shows that human development gains are almost equally distributed between both genders.

When we turn to the GII, the evolution is more impressive. In 24 years, Portugal has evolved from 0.221 in 1995 to 0.075 in 2019, being on the list of the best performing countries in the index.


Updated by Tânia Liberato