How badly has India fared when it comes gender parity?

India has slipped to the 135th position globally (among 146 countries) as per a gender parity ranking put out by the World Economic Forum (WEF). This means, it is only 11 ranks above Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, where women are prohibited from attending schools.

Other neighbours of India — Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan, China and Sri Lanka have much better ranks.

This is especially worrisome because six years ago, in 2016, India ranked the 87th in the world.

According to WEF, the South Asian region that includes India could take around 200 years to actually close the gender gap.

Why is the gap widening?

The gap is widening mainly due to India's global rank when it comes to political empowerment among women. India ranks 48th in the world currently.

This may appear like a good thing, but in 2016, the country was the ninth in the world. The rank then fell to 15 in 2017, 19 in 2018 and then to 51 in 2021. “Political Empowerment records a declining score (in India) due to the diminishing share of years women have served as head of state for the past 50 years,” the latest report says.

Which are the parameters in which the country fared badly?

India has the lowest ranks in Health and Survival, and Economic Participation and Opportunity. In both parameters, the country has scored the 143rd rank among 146 countries.

India’s score and ranking in these parameters have always been low. The rank in the former has been low, owing to low sex ratio at birth, according to the report.

According to the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS), sex ratio at birth for children born in the last five years was 929 females per 1,000 males. However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has estimated that the natural sex ratio at birth is about 952 females to every 1,000 males.

When it comes to Economic Participation and Opportunity, the Periodic Labour Force Survey’s 2020-21 annual report says that labour force participation rate among Indian women is just 23.15 per cent, in contrast to 57.75 per cent in men.

According to NFHS 2019-21, 25.2 per cent of the women surveyed were employed, while 74.8 per cent of the surveyed men had a job at that point.

“The most unequal economies with less than 65 per cent of wealth equity are Nigeria, Argentina, Mexico, Turkey and India,” the Gender Gap Report says. This means, in these countries women accumulate less than 65 per cent of the wealth men create at retirement, on average. India’s score here is between 60 and 64 per cent.

What needs to be done to arrest this decline?

The report criticises the rising inequality in the number of women holding offices in India. Passing the Women's Reservation Bill that proposes to reserve 33 per cent of all seats in the Lok Sabha and in all State legislative assemblies for women could make this situation better. Measures could also be taken to address the gender wage gap across industries.

According to the estimates of the World Inequality Report 2022, in India, men earn 82 per cent of the labour income whereas women earn 18 per cent of it. Also, there is scope to allocate more money towards gender budget, that aims to ensure that women have access to socio-economic benefits as much as men.

Which are the countries that have performed the best and the worst?

Iceland, Finland, Norway, New Zealand and Sweden have bagged the first five positions, the last two in the list are Pakistan and Afghanistan, bagging the 145th and 146th positions, respectively.