India has slipped 28 places to rank 140th among 156 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021 released recently, becoming the third-worst performer in South Asia after Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Gender Gap Index measures gender equality based on the relative gaps between women and men in four key areas including health, education, economy and politics. According to the Global Gender Gap Report, India has overcome only 62.5 per cent of its gender gap. This leads us to an integral question — how to achieve equality and reduce India’s gender gap?
What did the report say?
According to the WEF 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 last year. Noting that “the decline also took place on the economic participation and opportunity sub-index, 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. “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. “Conversely, 96.2 per cent of the educational attainment sub-index 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.
“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 added. Therefore, we will have to wait for an answer to the important question — how to achieve equality and reduce India’s gender gap?
This was the 15th year the WEF brought out the report, it talks about gender-based gaps in four areas: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. The first-ever report was published in 2006. For the 12th time, Iceland came out to be the most gender-equal country in the world. Otherwise, the top 10 most gender-equal countries include Finland, Norway, New Zealand, Rwanda, Sweden, Ireland and Switzerland.
The Global Gender Gap Report 2021 launches today.
— World Economic Forum (@wef) March 31, 2021
How the pandemic has worsened matters
The pandemic too had an impact and the global gender gap has increased by a generation from 99.5 years to 135.6 years, the report noted. The pandemic has also added almost decades to the journey towards closing the gender gap, the report added. Numerous studies have shown that the COVID-19 pandemic had more of a negative impact on women. They lost jobs at a higher rate than men, and had to take on much more of the extra childcare burden when schools shut down during lockdown. The effects of these will definitely be felt long-term. According to WEF, it found in its report that “the goalposts for gender parity appeared to be moving further away.” This year’s report shows the world is not on track to close the gender gap for another 135.6 years. “Another generation of women will have to wait for gender parity,” the WEF said in a statement.
How to achieve equality and reduce India’s gender gap?
The United Nations in one of its publications had stated that for India to retain and grow its position as a global leader, more concerted efforts at local and national levels, and by the private sector are integral towards bringing women to parity with men. Thus promoting gender equality and taking a step towards reducing the gender gap. “While the increasing representation of women in the public spheres is important and can potentially be attained through some form of affirmative action, an attitudinal shift is essential for women to be considered as equal within their homes and in broader society,” it had said.
Keeping in mind all of this, educating Indian children from a younger age about the gender gap and further about the importance of gender equality could be a step in the right direction.
There are few ways opined by experts in which desired gender equality can be achieved with time and effort. However, there can never be fool-proof solutions to such subjective issues. Focusing more on today’s youth who are the future, they can help eradicate the gender stereotypes and bring change in society by:
-Offering high-level education to women in the country
-Increasing women employment with visible efforts from the government
-Involving women in active politics and social activities
-Generating awareness among parents s they teach their kids at an early age
-Providing scholarships to girls
-Spreading awareness against child abuse and violence, especially gender-based violence
-Promoting NGOs and intervention at an early stage to get rid of gender inequality