India has slipped 28 places to rank 140th among 156 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021, becoming the third-worst performer in South Asia. According to the report, India has closed 62.5 per cent of its gender gap till date.
The country had ranked 112th among 153 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index 2020. Noting that the decline also took place on the economic participation and opportunity subindex, albeit to a lesser extent, the report said India’s gender gap on this dimension widened by 3 per cent this year, leading to a 32.6 per cent gap closed till date.
Most of the decline occurred on the political empowerment subindex, where India regressed 13.5 percentage points, with a significant decline in the number of women ministers (from 23.1 per cent in 2019 to 9.1 per cent in 2021). “Among the drivers of this decline is a decrease in women’s labour force participation rate, which fell from 24.8 per cent to 22.3 per cent. In addition, the share of women in professional and technical roles declined further to 29.2 per cent. The share of women in senior and managerial positions also remains low: only 14.6 per cent of these positions are held by women and there are only 8.9 per cent firms with female top managers,” the report said.
Further, the estimated earned income of women in India is only one-fifth of men’s, which puts the country among the bottom 10 globally on this indicator, it said. Discrimination against women is also reflected in the health and survival subindex statistics. With 93.7 per cent of this gap closed to date, India ranks among the bottom five countries in this subindex.
Wide gaps in sex ratio at birth are due to the high incidence of gender-based sex-selective practices. In addition, more than one in four women has faced intimate violence in her lifetime, the report said. “Conversely, 96.2 per cent of the educational attainment subindex gender gap has been closed, with parity achieved in primary, secondary and tertiary education. Yet, gender gaps persist in terms of literacy: one third of women are illiterate (34.2 per cent) compared to 17.6 per cent of men,” it added.
Among India’s neighbours, Bangladesh ranked 65, Nepal 106, Pakistan 153, Afghanistan 156, Bhutan 130 and Sri Lanka 116. Among regions, South Asia is the second-lowest performer on the index, with 62.3 per cent of its overall gender gap closed.
“Within the region, a wide gulf separates the best-performing country, Bangladesh, which has closed 71.9 per cent of its gender gap so far, from Afghanistan, which has only closed 44.4 per cent of its gap. “India is the third-worst performer in the region, having closed 62.5 per cent of its gap. Because of its large population, India’s performance has a substantial impact on the region’s overall performance,” the report said.
In South Asia, only Pakistan and Afghanistan ranked below India. The report stated that India, home to 0.65 billion women, has widened its gender gap from almost 66.8 per cent one year ago to 62.5 per cent this year.
In Pakistan and Afghanistan, the income of an average woman is below 16 per cent of that of an average man, while in India it is 20.7 per cent, it said. As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be felt, the global gender gap has increased by a generation from 99.5 years to 135.6 years, the report noted.
Now in its 15th year, the report benchmarks the evolution of gender-based gaps in four areas: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. It also examines the drivers of gender gaps and outlines the policies and practices needed for a gender-inclusive recovery. For the 12th time, Iceland is the most gender-equal country in the world. The top 10 most gender-equal countries include Finland, Norway, New Zealand, Rwanda, Sweden, Ireland and Switzerland..