Pandemic impact: Gender gap in India, world over worsens

Published on Apr 01, 2021 03:35 AM IST

According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2021 released on Wednesday, India had regressed the highest in the sub-category of political empowerment (13.5 percentage points) with a significant decline in the number of women ministers (from 23.1% in 2019 to 9.1% in 2021).

In South Asia, only Pakistan and Afghanistan ranked below India.(AFP)
In South Asia, only Pakistan and Afghanistan ranked below India.(AFP)
Agencies | , New Delhi/geneva

India has slipped 28 places to rank 140th among 156 countries, becoming the third-worst performer in South Asia, according to the World Economic Forum report that also says the pandemic has rolled back years of progress towards equality between men and women world over.

According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2021 released on Wednesday, India had regressed the highest in the sub-category of political empowerment (13.5 percentage points) with a significant decline in the number of women ministers (from 23.1% in 2019 to 9.1% in 2021).

The country had ranked 112th among 153 countries in 2020 ranking.

“Among the drivers of this decline (in India’s ranking) 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.

In South Asia, only Pakistan and Afghanistan ranked below India. Among India’s neighbours, Bangladesh ranked 65, Nepal 106, Pakistan 153, Afghanistan 156, Bhutan 130 and Sri Lanka 116.

Among regions, South Asia is the second-lowest performer on the index, with 62.3% of its overall gender gap closed.

“Within the region, a wide gulf separates the best-performing country, Bangladesh, which has closed 71.9% of its gender gap so far, from Afghanistan, which has only closed 44.4% of its gap.

“India is the third-worst performer in the region, having closed 62.5% of its gap. Because of its large population, India’s performance has a substantial impact on the region’s overall performance,” the report said.

A longer wait

The pandemic has also added decades to the trajectory towards closing the gender gap, the report said.

A range of studies have shown that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women, who have lost jobs at a higher rate than men, and had to take on much more of the extra childcare burden when schools closed.

The effects will be felt in the long-term, according to WEF, which found in its report that the goalposts for gender parity appeared to be moving further away. The organisation, which usually gathers the global elite in the plush Swiss ski resort of Davos each year, had found in its previous report, published in December 2019 right before the pandemic hit, that gender parity across a range of areas would be reached within 99.5 years.

But 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. The Geneva-based organisation’s annual report tracks disparities between the sexes in 156 countries across four areas: education, health, economic opportunity and political empowerment.

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