Despite progress in education and health, women continue to face economic hurdles, dwindling political participation and workplace challenges. The coronavirus pandemic has further widened the gender gap in the country’s inequalities. The latest World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report ranks India 135 out of 146 countries surveyed. In 2006, when the gender gap report […]
Despite progress in education and health, women continue to face economic hurdles, dwindling political participation and workplace challenges. The coronavirus pandemic has further widened the gender gap in the country’s inequalities. The latest World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report ranks India 135 out of 146 countries surveyed. In 2006, when the gender gap report was first released, India had ranked 98th among 115 countries. Gender parity is a statistical measure that gives us an idea of the female to male ratio for different indicators like health, education, or income. Not only is gender parity a useful tool for assessing gender inequality, but it can also be used to bring about needed change and progress. While India’s education enrolment has been impressive, its health and survival record is at rock-bottom. It comes as no surprise that South Asia is one of the worst performing regions, followed by the Middle East and northern Africa. The global gender gap report benchmarks the current state of gender parity across four key dimensions— economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. On each of the four sub-indices as well as on the overall index, the nations are given scores between 0 and 1, where 1 shows full gender parity and 0 is complete imparity. India has scored 0.629 on the index. On share of women in the labour force and wage equality, India ranks a lowly 143 out of the 146 countries. With a female population of 662 million, India’s situation has an overwhelming impact on the global picture.
The gender gap in India is largely attributed to patriarchal systems. The reduction in women’s labour force participation rate was an important reason for India’s poor ranking. The pandemic’s combined effect of accelerated automation and the growing “double shift” of work and care is likely to have a long-term impact on economic opportunities for women, risking inferior re-employment prospects and a drop in income. The estimated income of women is only one-fifth of men’s, which puts the country among the bottom 10 globally on this indicator. Women continue to face many barriers to enter labour market relating to access, choice of work, working conditions, employment security, wage parity and discrimination. India has one of the lowest female participation rates in the workforce across the world, oscillating between 16% and 23% in the last few years. It is less than half the global average. The governments and the private sector must build diversity, equity and inclusion into their plans for recovery. As India aspires to be a global power, it must set an example, and embark on a path of sustainable, gender-inclusive economic growth. Achieving this vision requires that India’s women take leadership in rebuilding the economy and in creating a society that values the voice of its women.