INDIA HAS been ranked a low 108 out of 144 countries on the gender equality scale, slipping from 87 last year, according to the Global Gender Gap Index (2017) released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Thursday.
While the top ranks continue to be held by the Nordic countries of Iceland, Norway and Finland, Bangladesh, at 47th position, holds the highest rank in South Asia.
India’s abysmal ranking is mainly due to two indicators. The first is ‘Health and Survival’ — at 141, India continues to be in the bottom four. Like China, the worst performer on health indicator, the report blames India’s poor sex ratio at birth which still points to a strong preference for sons.
The second indicator is ‘Economic Participation and Opportunities for Women’, where India’s rank is 139, down from 136 last year. On this, India ranks above only Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Syria — countries that are among those with the worst overall gender gap ranking.
A detailed analysis of the data cited in the report indicates that the poor show on the economic front is due to the fact that, on an average, a woman in India is estimated to earn less than a quarter of the annual income earned by a man. She gets paid only 60 per cent of what her male counterpart gets for similar work. Women account for over a third of the labour force participation, but their share of daily unpaid work (household chores, childcare etc) is 65 per cent while it is only 11 per cent for men. Across sectors, only 13 per cent of senior officials, managers and legislators are women.
Besides the economic and health criteria, the Index also takes into account ‘Educational Attainment’ and ‘Political Empowerment’.
When the WEF first released the Index in 2006, it included only 115 countries. Hence, rather than the rank, the scores are an indicator of a decadal decline or improvement, the highest possible score being 1 (parity) and the lowest possible score being 0 (imparity). Iceland, the most gender-equal country has a score of 0.878, while Yemen, the worst-ranked, scored 0.516.
India has a score of 0.669 — up from 0.601 in 2006, but down from 0.683 in 2016.
Besides economic factors, India’s steep drop of 21 ranks since last year has been attributed to the “widening of its gender gaps in political empowerment as well as in healthy life expectancy and basic literacy.”
The report notes that India has succeeded in fully closing its primary and secondary education enrolment gender gaps and is very near to closing its tertiary education gender gap, but the overall literacy rate still shows disparity between the men (80 per cent) and women (59 per cent).
Making a pressing case for having more women in top political positions, it says that India’s high ranking of 15 on this indicator still hinges on the fact that it had a female prime minister half a century ago. The proportion of women in legislature is an abysmal 11 per cent.
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