Women have yet to reach equality with men in any country, but they come closest in Sweden, followed by Finland and then the United States, a study by a private population group concludes.
"The world's poorest women are not merely poor. They live on the edge of subsistence. They are economically dependent and vulnerable, politically and legally powerless," said Sharon L. Camp, vice president of the committee which studies population issues.Scoring well in many categories, particularly in social equality and employment opportunities, Sweden was ranked first in women's status. Finland was listed as No. 2, while the United States placed third, doing particularly well in providing educational opportunities for women. No country managed to be listed as "excellent," however.
Sweden led the "very good" section and was joined by Finland, the United States, East Germany, Norway, Canada and Denmark.
Bangladesh finished a distant last, with Mali, Afghanistan, North Yemen and Pakistan rounding out the bottom five.
The ratings are based on measures of women's status in health, marriage and children, education, employment and social equality.
Nowhere do women enjoy equal status with men, the report said.
"But in the least developed countries of Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, crushing poverty overlaid with longstanding patterns of discrimination create living conditions for women almost too harsh to imagine," the report said.
Here are some of the areas of women's status:
-Health: This category included infant and child mortality, mortality of women in their childbearing years and life expectancy. Finland was the top-ranked with a rating of 20. Austria and France were close at 19.5. The United States scored 19.
Marriage and Children: This ranking was based on the percent of women who marry while still adolescents, national fertility rate, prevalence of contraceptive use and ratio of widows and divorced women heading households.
-Education: This category covered school and college enrollment of women, percentage of women teachers and differences in literacy rates between men and women. The United States ranked first at 18.5 points, followed by Jamaica with 18. Sweden managed only 15.5 here.
-Employment: The employment category was based on the percentage of women working for pay, the share who are self-employed and the number in technical and professional occupations. Sweden was tops in women's employment at 14.5 points, followed by East Germany at 13.5 and Mozambique and the Soviet Union at 12.5 each. The United States scored 10.
-Social Equality: This category generally measured women's political and legal equality with men, the degree to which they can expect equal treatment in the workplace, property rights, rights in divorce and protection from discrimination. Finland and Sweden were tops with 18.5 points each. The United States managed 16.5.