Ireland has been ranked eighth in a report on gender equality around the world.

However, Iceland and three other Nordic countries lead the world in gender equality, according to a report released today.

Read the full report

The World Economic Forum ranked countries according to how much they reduced gender disparities based on economic participation, education, health and political empowerment while attempting to strip out the effects of a nation's overall wealth.

Iceland, which has been rocked by financial crisis, rose from fourth place overall a year ago to top the list and was followed by Finland, Norway and Sweden. New Zealand came in fifth.

The report also ranked Iceland highest in political empowerment, a category in which the US lagged falling four spots to 31st, behind Lithuania and ahead of Namibia.

‘What pulls down the US in this ranking is really the political empowerment data,’ said Saadia Zahidi, co-author of the report.

Yemen was ranked lowest at 134, behind Chad and Pakistan.

‘Out of the 115 countries covered in the report since 2006, more than two-thirds have posted gains in overall index scores, indicating that the world in general has made progress towards equality,’ co-author Ricardo Hausmann said in a statement.

The Nordic countries traditionally have been known for generous social benefits, and the high-ranking nations have made it easier to balance work and family life, the report said.

‘When we look at the economic participation variables, it's clear that this country (Iceland) has managed to remove the barriers to women participating in the workplace,’ the author said.

‘Some of that is of course explained by the type of maternity leave benefits that these countries offer. Most of the Nordic countries essentially make it more compatible for women to combine family and work.’

The report came a year after Iceland's financial system imploded and the country's currency collapsed, pitching the nation into recession and triggering a wave of job losses and bankruptcies.

The authors said it was too early to tell what effects the global financial crisis in general, and Iceland's economic turmoil in particular, had on the gender gap standings.

The report is also based on data that is between one and three years old. Sources included the International Labour Organisation, the World Health Organisation and the UN Development Programme.