Global gender gap – the hiatus needs to be bridged

Worried about the economic gender gap? Concerned that the yawning chasm in the earnings of men and women is barely closing? Well, you have cause to be.

The Global Gender Gap Report, 2015, of the World Economic Forum (WEF), is out, and it’s not good news. This year’s report indicates that it will take the world another 118 years, or until 2133, to close the gender gap fully! The report reveals that the slow pace of progress in bridging the gap in economic opportunities between women and men means that women are only now earning the amount men did in 2006, the year the Global Gender Gap report was first produced.

The Gender Gap report ranks countries in four categories — Political Empowerment; Health and Survival; Educational Attainment; Economic Participation and Opportunity—and finds that the largest gaps remain in the economic and political spheres. Some of the key findings of the report are:

  • The global gender gap across health, education, economic opportunity and politics has closed by only 4% in the past 10 years, with the economic gap closing by just 3%.
  • The education gap has widened in 22% of the surveyed countries since 2006 and, while more women than men are enrolling in universities in 97 countries, women make up the majority of skilled workers in only 68 countries, and the majority of leaders in only four.
  • Despite an additional quarter of a billion women entering the global workforce since 2006, wage inequality persists.
  • The Nordic countries still dominate the Global Gender Gap Index, just as they did 10 years ago.

This is how the world fares in terms of gender parity

Sr. No.Top 10Bottom 10
1IcelandYemen
2NorwayPakistan
3FinlandSyria
4SwedenChad
5IrelandIran
6RwandaJordon
7PhilippinesMorocco
8SwitzerlandLebanon
9SloveniaMaili
10New ZelandEgypt

 Where does India stand?

India’s performance remains poor on almost all parameters, and even though its ranking has improved to 108 from 114 in 2014, the overall situation is quite worrisome. Defying its size, and in spite of the resources allocated to various schemes to improve health and sanitation, India is placed in the bottom three in the Health and Survival sub-index. To make matters worse, India, China and Albania — the bottom three countries— have declined the furthest in this sub-index. Even Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are ranked higher than India. Among our neighbours, only Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan are ranked below us.

About the only category in which India has performed well is Political Empowerment, with a ranking of nine, which is a jump of six positions in the sub-index compared to the previous year. This is because it has more than doubled the percentage of women in ministerial positions from 9% to 22%, thus ranking second in the Asia-Pacific region in Political Empowerment.

It’s bad news on other parameters. In Economic Participation and Opportunity, which considers labour force participation and wage equality, India ranks a poor 139. We are the third-lowest-ranked country in Asia-Pacific in this sub-index India. In fact, India widened the gap in labour force participation by a good 7%. In terms of providing economic opportunities to women, India is at its lowest point since WEF started measuring the gender gap in 2006

With regard to labour force participation, we stand at 136, and in wage equality, at 129. It’s the same on the literacy rate front, where we are at 127. Expectedly, with regard to the sex ratio at birth, India ranked 143. In Educational Attainment, we are at 125.

Clearly, we have a long, long way to go before we reach a standing somewhat befitting our size and the global influence we hope to exert.

And how does the world fare?

As per the report, no country in the world has fully closed the gender gap, but four out of the five Nordic countries and Ireland have closed more than 80% of it. Yemen, the lowest-ranking country, has closed over 48% of the gender gap. The countries at the top of the Gender Gap Index are Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Ireland.

According to Saadia Zahidi, the lead author of the report and Head of Gender Parity and Human Capital and Constituents at the World Economic Forum, the Nordic countries are still doing the most to close the gender gap. They have the best policies in the world for families; their childcare systems are the best and they have the best laws on paternity, maternity and family leave.

The worst performing nations are Iran, Chad, Syria, Pakistan and Yemen.

Out of 145 countries, there are only four countries where more women than men work. These are the African nations of Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda and Burundi. Another interesting nugget from the report is that only in Columbia, Fiji and Philippines do more men than women have leadership roles.

The report adds that round the globe, the gender gap across all four categories has closed by 4% since 2006. In the economic category, it has closed by 3%, but little progress has been made in wage equality and labor force parity since 2009-2010.  According to the report, “At the current rate, the economic gap will not close until 2133.”

That’s a pretty sobering thought, and one that should worry governments and civil society alike. That there is a pressing need to take the fight for gender equality to the next level might be stating the obvious, but it needs to be hammered in all the same. Unless there is a global effort to implement actionable best practices to close the economic gender gap, nothing much will change by the time the next report is published. Or the one after that.

This article was first published on BizDivas.in

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