India must close the gender gap and make every woman count
India must quickly close the gender gap in politics, health, education and economics. To do so, it has to make the issue a national priorityeditorials Updated: Mar 31, 2016 00:37 IST
In India, the gender gap — the differences between women and men, especially as reflected in social, political, intellectual, cultural, or economic attainments or attitudes — is pervasive across all sectors. In the last few years, several reports, starting from the World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) 2015 Gender Gap Report have said that the country still has miles to go in bridging the gender gap in the areas of health, education and economics, if not politics.
According to the WEF report, India ranks 108 among 145 countries in gender gap parity. The highest gap, the WEF analysis said, is seen in economic participation and opportunities (more than 60%) followed by political empowerment (close to 55%). An assessment of the 2011 Census data by wwwhowindialives.com, a search engine for public data on India, and published in MINT on Wednesday, reveals the extent of the problem: In the 61 cities that have a population of more than 750,000 and where 43 million workers account for 37% of all urban workers, for every four men in a permanent job, there is one woman.
The benefits of achieving gender parity in India are well documented: An International Monetary Fund study said India’s GDP can expand by 27% if the number of women workers increases to the same level as that of men. A 2015 McKinsey report gives a more ambitious projection: India could boost 2025 GDP by 60% by promoting gender diversity at work.
If there is one region to emulate when it comes to bridging the gender gap, it has to be the Nordic countries. Norway, for example, has narrowed gender gaps on all the four indexes (health, education, economics and politics); for education, the gap is eliminated. This has come about because of the high level of participation of women in the labour force, lowering pay gaps and increasing opportunities for women to move into leadership roles. This has been possible because gender equality is on the national agenda and policies are focused towards achieving that goal. If India has to develop, India must also make gender parity a national priority.