Gender equality: South Asia

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Gender equality in South Asia


When India’s human development index is adjusted for gender equality, it becomes South Asia’s worst performing country after Afghanistan, new numbers in the UNDP’s Human Development Report 2013 show. Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh, which are poorer than India and have lower HDIs, all do comparatively better than India when it comes to gender equality.

The new UNDP report, released on Thursday, ranks India 136th out of 186 countries, five ranks below postwar Iraq, on the HDI. The HDI is a composite indicator composed of three equally weighted measures for education, health and income.

On the newly constituted multi-dimensional poverty index (MPI), which identifies multiple deprivations in the same households in education, health and standard of living, only 29 countries do worse than India (though data sets are from varying periods of time across nations). The MPI puts India’s poverty head count ratio at 54%, higher than Bangladesh and Nepal.

This was even as India did extremely well economically. India and China doubled output per capita in less than 20 years, at a scale the UNDP has said was “unprecedented in speed and scale”. “Never in history have the living conditions and prospects of so many people changed so dramatically and so fast,” the UNDP said. It took Britain 150 years to do the same after the Industrial Revolution and the United States, which industrialized later, took 50 years.

On the whole, developing countries have been steadily improving their human development records. No country has done worse in 2012 than in 2000, while the same was not true for the preceding decade. India, Bangladesh and China are among 40 countries that have done better on the HDI than was predicted for them in 1990. By 2030, more than 80% of the world’s middle class is projected to be in the global south; within Asia, India and China will make up 75% of the middle class.

The HDR identifies three drivers of human development transformation in the countries of the global south — proactive developmental states, tapping of global markets and determined social policy innovation.

Gender: India better than neighbours

New Delhi: Women don’t seem to be doing too badly in India, when we consider just South Asia. India’s gender-related development index (GDI) rank is 96 out of 177 countries, one of the best in the region if we do not count Sri Lanka, way ahead at rank 68. But, as always, the ranking hides more than it reveals about gender equality.

While Sri Lanka soars ahead on most counts, when it comes to women’s political participation, it is behind most countries in the region and so is India. Pakistan leads the way with 20.4%, highest percentage of women in Parliament. In Sri Lanka, the figure is 4.9% and in India 9.2%. Bangladesh too, is better off with 14.8% of seats in Parliament held by women.

If female life expectancy in India is 65.3, Bangladesh is not too far behind at 64.2 years. Sri Lanka is way ahead with a female life expectancy of 71.3 and its adult female literacy rate is almost double the Indian figure of 47.8%. India’s only comfort is that it has better literacy rates than Pakistan and Nepal. In gross school enrolment of women too, India’s percentage is just 58, same as Bangladesh. On most counts, including the GDI ranking China (rank 64) is far ahead of all the countries in South Asia.

The estimated earned income of women in India, $1,471 per capita in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, might be high in the region, but again Sri Lankan women earn almost twice as much and Chinese women three times the amount.

Yet again, Bangladesh is close behind India with it’s women earning $1,170, while in Pakistan and Nepal, they earn less than $1,000 per capita. Interestingly, when it comes to the proportion of females involved in economic activity, Sri Lanka and India are almost equally badly off - India’s rate is 34% and Sri Lanka’s is 35%. Here, Bangladesh does a lot better with 52.9% and Nepal with 49.7%. What is really revealing in terms of gender disparity is a comparison of the time spent by men and women on market-oriented activity as opposed to non-market activities, which would mean work that is not paid for. Women in India spend 35% of their time on market activity and the rest on non-market activity.

This figure in itself is not too shocking because there is a similar divide, and sometimes a sharper one, even in the developed countries, between time spent by women on market and non-market activities. However, when we look at the corresponding figure for men in India, it shows that they spend only 8% of their time on non-market activities. Such a sharp contrast between the way men and women allocate their time is not matched by any other country.

2015: States with highest and least inequality

The Times of India, Nov 04 2015

Prabin Kalita

Mizoram, Meghalaya have least gender gap

Mizoram and Meghalaya are the two states in the country with the least gender gap, according to McKinsey Global Institute's (MGI) “The Power of Parity: Advancing Women Equality in India“ report. The gender parity in the two northeastern states, along with that of Kerala, Goa, and Sikkim, are roughly in line with that of Argentina, China, or Indonesia, the report says.

In contrast, Assam, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh have been grouped as India's bottom five states on gender parity by MGI.The situation in these states is similar to that in Chad and Yemen. The report says the top five states account for just 4% of the country's female workingage population, while the bottom five comprises a much larger 32%. “Indian women face extremely high inequality on two of three dimensions -physical security and autonomy (sex ratio at birth and intimate partner violence). They face high inequality on the third, child marriage,“ it said.

The report, which analysed 15 gender equality indicators across 95 countries in an attempt to quantify the economic potential of closing the gender gap around the world, used a new score -India Female Empowerment Index or Femdex -based on a subset of 10 of the 15 indicators for which data are available at the state-level.

The report adds that gender inequality in India is high or extremely high on three dimensions -gender equality in work, legal protection and political voice, and physical security and autonomy -and medium to high on the fourth dimension of essential services and enablers of economic opportunity .

In terms of gender equality in work, just Meghalaya and Mizoram show parity . In case of gender equality in physical security and autonomy , Himachal scores highest. The report says, “Indian women face high or extremely high inequality on all five indicators related to work: labour-force participation rate, professional and technical jobs, unpaid care work, wage gap and leadership positions.“

Global Gender Gap Report/ World Economic Forum


The Indian Express, October 26, 2016

India ranked at lowly 87 in gender gap index

India was ranked at 87th place globally in terms of gender equality despite a jump of 21 places from 2015 largely due to progress on the education front while Iceland has topped the chart. India was ranked 108th on the annual Global Gender Gap index compiled by Geneva-based World Economic Forum.

India has closed its gender gap by 2 per cent in a year and its gap now stands at 68 per cent across the four pillars that WEF measures — economy, education, health and political representation.

The major improvement has been in education where “India has managed to close its gap entirely in primary and secondary education”, WEF said, adding that in the economic sphere, “much work remains to be done”. India ranks 136 in this pillar out of 144 countries. On educational attainment, India was ranked at 113th place; in terms of health and survival, it was a placed at a lowly 142, while on political empowerment it was among the top 10 countries.

According to the WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report 2016, the prospects of global workplace gender parity slipped further, and economic parity between the genders could take 170 years after a “dramatic slowdown in progress”. Globally, the leading four nations continue to be Scandinavian: Iceland (1), Finland (2), Norway (3) and Sweden (4). The next highest placed nation is Rwanda, which moves one place ahead of Ireland to 5th position. Following Ireland, the Philippines remains unchanged at 7th, narrowly ahead of Slovenia (8) and New Zealand (9), which both move up one place. With Switzerland dropping out of the top 10, 10th position is taken up by Nicaragua, WEF said.

In 2015, projections based on the Global Gender Gap Report data suggested that the economic gap could be closed within 118 years, or 2133. The latest report noted that the prospects for workplace gender equality have slipped beyond our lifetimes to 2186.

“Slowdown partly down (due) to chronic imbalances in salaries and labour force participation, despite the fact that, in 95 countries, women attend university in equal or higher numbers than men,” the report said. In this latest edition, the report finds that progress towards parity in the key economic pillar has slowed dramatically with the gap – which stands at 59 per cent – now larger than at any point since 2008.

“Behind this decline are a number of factors. One is salary, with women around the world on average earning just over half of what men earn despite, on average, working longer hours taking paid and unpaid work into account,” WEF said.

Another challenge is stagnant labour force participation, with the global average for women at 54 per cent compared with 81 per cent for men. Moreover, the number of women in senior positions also remains stubbornly low, with only four countries in the world having equal numbers of male and female legislators, senior officials and managers.


Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka on the Global Gender Gap index, 2019
From: Dec 18, 2019 Times of India

See graphic:

Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka on the Global Gender Gap index, 2019


April 1, 2021: The Times of India

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% 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% this year, leading to a 32.6% 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% in 2019 to 9.1% in 2021).

“Among the drivers of this decline is a decrease in women’s labour force participation rate, which fell from 24.8% to 22.3%. In addition, the share of women in professional and technical roles declined further to 29.2%. The share of women in senior and managerial positions also remains low: only 14.6% of these positions are held by women and there are only 8.9% 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% 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% 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%) compared to 17.6% of men,” it added.

Among regions, South Asia is the second-lowest performer on the index, with 62.3% of its overall gender gap closed. 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% one year ago to 62.5% this year. PTI

See also

1. Assam

2. Christians: India

3. Working women: South Asia

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