The Countries Where Women Have the Best Lives, in Charts

On International Women's Day, a look at the regions where women are healthiest, happiest, make most, and are most likely to hold positions of power


The first National Women's Day was celebrated on March 8, 1909, a day designated by the Socialist Party of America to honor of the 1908 garment workers' strike in New York. From there, the day expanded internationally to include women's movements agitating for the right to vote, work, and hold public office. It joined with other movements working to topple the Czarist regime in Russia and protest World War I. In some places, it's even a public holiday. (In 1965, the Soviet Union declared March 8 a non-working day "in commemoration of outstanding merits of the Soviet women in communistic construction.")

In honor of International Women's Day somewhat left-leaning origins, here's a look at the countries where work, life and health conditions for women are the best. There's no clear stand-out country or region, but in general, it seems like you'd be better off somewhere in either Scandinavia or Southern Europe. Peru (and the U.S.) don't come off that well, but New Zealand and even Rwanda might not be a bad option:

Women in New Zealand have the best working lives:

The Economist created an index showing the countries where women are most likely to be treated equally at work, based on the labor-force participation rate, the wage gap, the proportion of women in senior jobs and child care cost compared to wages, among other factors. New Zealand comes out on top, and other notorious lady-paradises such as Finland and Sweden also score high. The countries where working women have it worst are South Korea and Japan, largely because so few women there are in top jobs. The U.S. is roughly in the middle of the pack:

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The biggest gender gaps in employment, though, are in Ecuador and Saudi Arabia.

Women are most likely to feel satisfied with their health in the Middle East and North Africa

...Or at least they're just as satisfied with their health as the country's men are. Gallup surveyed both men and women across 147 countries last year and found that women in the former Soviet Union were much less likely to say they were happy with the status of their health as the country's men were. (They were also far less likely to say they were well-rested). Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa had the smallest overall gender gaps across all of the health indicators -- but that could be because health care access in those countries is lower across the board, so sickness is equal-opportunity:


Women feel safest in the tiny, former-Soviet country of Georgia:

According to Gallup , the countries where women feel safest walking around alone at night aren't the ones you'd think: Georgia, Rwanda and Singapore top that list, but only because their more rigid governments keep a close watch on things:

Many of the countries on this list -- including Rwanda, Tajikistan, and Laos -- are authoritarian regimes in which security forces exercise a high degree of control over the population, suggesting that in some cases personal security may come at the expense of personal freedoms.

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Think it's safer to live in a richer country? Not really. Women in poorer countries are actually likelier to feel safe, but then again, definitions of "feeling safe" aren't exactly universal:

Standards for personal security may also be much lower in developing than in developed countries, which helps explain why many low-income countries appear high on the list.

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Women have the most maternity leave in Bulgaria

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Olga Khazan is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where she covers health.

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