Home to 650 million women, India in 2021 has slipped 28 places and has been ranked 140th among 156 nations participating in the rankings of the Global Gender Gap Report 2021.
The report states that the gender gap in India has widened to 62.5%. This is largely due to women’s inadequate representation in politics, technical and leadership roles, decrease in women’s labour force participation rate, poor healthcare, lagging female to male literacy ratio, income inequality across the country at various levels. India fared the worst in political empowerment, regressing from 23.9% to 9.1%. Its ranking on the health and survival dimension is among the five worst performers. The economic participation and opportunity gap saw a decline of 3% compared to 2020, while on the educational attainment front we stand in the 114th position.
The report is a measure of the gender gap on four parameters: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. The index has benchmarked 156 nations across the globe in 2021. Quite alarmingly, the data show that it will take 135.6 years to bridge the gender gap worldwide and the pandemic has impacted women more severely than men.
Gender remains a critically important but largely ignored lens to view development issues across the world. Gender inequality is not only a pressing moral and social issue but also a critical economic challenge. In terms of relative economic importance, India has a greater stake in promoting gender equality. Despite substantial progress, however, several differences exist. While India has narrowed the gender gap in primary education and health care, it still falls short on other important development indicators. Gender equality has become a common development target, but statistics show that progress has been slow.
The COVID-19 global pandemic has only slowed down the progress India was making towards achieving gender parity. At the macro level, there is a need for policy initiatives to empower women and tighter implementation of existing ones to reduce the gender disparity in India. Small steps also are instrumental in driving change at the local and national levels. Development is more than just economic growth or poverty alleviation- it’s about helping people reach their full potential. Increased economic opportunity and reproductive choices help women, and their families, thrive.