Global Gender Gap Report 2021

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Context

  • India has fallen 28 spots to rank 140th among 156 countries on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index. 

Relevance
Mains: GS I-

  • Role of women & women's organization
Introduction
  • The Global Gender Gap Index was first introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006 to benchmark progress towards gender parity and compare countries’ gender gaps across 4 key dimensions (Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment).
  • By providing country rankings, the report incentivizes comparisons across regions and countries and stimulates learning on the drivers of gender gaps and policies to close them.
  • This year, the Global Gender Gap index benchmarks 156 countries.
  • The Global Gender Gap Index measures scores on a 0  to 100 scale and scores can be interpreted as the distance to parity (i.e. the percentage of the gender gap that has been closed).
  • According to the 2021 report, Preliminary evidence suggests that the COVID-19 and the related economic downturn have impacted women more severely than men,  partially re-opening gaps that had already been closed.

 

Global Trends and Outcomes
  • Globally, the average distance completed to parity is at 68%, a step back compared to 2020
  • These figures are mainly driven by a decline in the performance of large countries.
  • On its current trajectory, it will now take 135.6 years to close the gender gap worldwide.

Political empowerment

  • The gender gap in Political Empowerment remains the largest of the four gaps tracked.
  • Across the 156 countries covered by the index, women represent only 26.1% of some 35,500 parliament seats and just 22.6% of over 3,400 ministers worldwide
  • Widening gender gaps in Political Participation have been driven by negative trends in some large countries which have counterbalanced progress in another 98 smaller countries.

Economic Participation and Opportunity

  • The gender gap in Economic Participation and Opportunity remains the second-largest of the four key gaps tracked by the index.
  • The slow progress seen in closing the Economic Participation and Opportunity gap is the result of two opposing trends.
  • On one hand, the proportion of women among skilled professionals continues to increase, as does progress towards wage equality, albeit at a slower pace.
  • On the other hand, overall income disparities are still only part-way towards being bridged and there is a persistent lack of women in leadership positions, with women representing just 27% of all manager positions.
  • One of the most important sources of inequality between men and women is women’s underrepresentation in the labor market
  • Participating in labor markets has been an important channel for the economic empowerment of women and for building diverse, inclusive, and innovative organizations.
  • Globally, considering population-weighted averages, almost 80% of men aged 15–64 are in the labor force versus only 52.6% of women of the same age group, explaining in part why the gender gap in labor force participation remains above 35%.
  • Beyond inequality in access to labor force opportunities, financial disparities continue to represent a major area of concern for working women and their dependents.
  • Despite some progress this year, the wage gap (the ratio of the wage of women to that of men in a similar position) is still approximately 37% and the income gap (the ratio of the total wage and non-wage income of women to that of men) remains close to 51%.
  • Also, projections for a select number of countries show that gender gaps in labor force participation are wider since the outbreak of the pandemic.
  • Therefore, addressing normative and legal barriers for women to work and advance remains a priority area for policymakers and businesses in all countries.

Educational Attainment

  • Gender gaps in Educational Attainment and Health and Survival are nearly closed.
  • In Educational Attainment, 95% of this gender gap has been closed globally, with 37 countries already at parity.
  • However, the ‘last mile’ of progress is proceeding slowly.

Health and Survival

  • In Health and Survival, 96% of this gender gap has been closed, registering a marginal decline  since last year (not due to COVID-19)
  • For both education and health, while progress is higher than for economy and politics in the global data, there are important future implications of disruptions due to the pandemic, as well as continued variations in quality across income, geography, race, and ethnicity.
Gender Gaps, COVID-19 and the Future of Work

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on gender gaps in economic participation

  • Early projections from ILO suggest 5% of all employed women lost their jobs, compared with 3.9% of employed men.
  • LinkedIn data further shows a marked decline of women’s hiring into leadership roles, creating a reversal of 1 to 2 years of progress across multiple industries.
  • While industries such as Software and IT Services, Financial Services, Health and Healthcare, and Manufacturing are countering this trend, there is more severe destruction of overall roles in industries with higher participation of women, such as the Consumer sector, Non-profits, and Media and Communication.
  • Additionally, Ipsos data from January 2021 shows that a longer “double-shift” of paid and unpaid work in a context of school closures and limited availability of care services have contributed to an overall increase of stress, anxiety around job insecurity, and difficulty in maintaining work-life balance among women with children. 
  • The COVID-19 crisis has also accelerated automation and digitalization, speeding up labor market disruption.

Future of work

  • Data points to significant challenges for gender parity in the future of jobs due to increasing occupational gender segregation.
  • Gender gaps are more likely in sectors that require disruptive technical skills.
  • For example, in Cloud Computing, women make up 14% of the workforce; in Engineering, 20%; and in Data and AI, 32%. 

Through the combined effect of accelerated automation the growing “double shift”, and other labor market dynamics such as occupational segregation, the pandemic is likely to have a scarring effect on future economic opportunities for women, risking inferior re-employment prospects and a persistent drop in income. Gender-positive recovery policies and practices can tackle those potential challenges.

The report gave the following recommendations for a gender-equal future of work:

  • Further investments into the care sector and equitable access to care leave for men and women.
  • Policies and practices need to proactively focus on overcoming occupational segregation by gender.
  • Effective mid-career reskilling policies, combined with managerial practices, which embed sound, unbiased hiring and promotion practices.
Gender Gaps by Country and Region
  • Iceland is the most gender-equal country in the world for the 12th time.
  • The top 10 includes:
  • The five most-improved countries in the overall index this year are Lithuania, Serbia, Timor-Leste, Togo, and United Arab Emirates, having narrowed their gender gaps by at least 4.4 percentage points or more. 
  • There are significant disparities across and within various geographies.
  • Western Europe remains the region that has progressed the most towards gender parity (77.6%) and is further progressing this year.
  • The Middle East and North Africa region remains the area with the largest gap (60.9%).
  • Although no country has yet to achieve full gender parity, the top two countries (Iceland and Finland) have closed at least 85% of their gap.
  • Geographically, the global top 10 continues to be dominated by Nordic countries, with —Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden—in the top five. 
Performance of India
  • India was the third-worst performer in South Asia, after Afghanistan and Pakistan
  • India has closed 62.5% of its gender gap to date, ranking the country 140th globally.
  • This gap is 4.2 percentage points larger than recorded in the previous edition, which explains why India has fallen 28 places in the ranking.
  • Most of the decline has occurred on the Political Empowerment subindex. 
  • The main change that took place this year is the significant decline in the share of women among ministers, which halved, from 23.1% in 2019 to 9.1% in 2021.
  • Besides, the share of women in parliament remains stagnant at 14.4%.
  • The decline also took place on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, albeit to a lesser extent.
  • Among the drivers of this decline is a decrease in women’s labor force participation rate, which fell from 24.8% to 22.3%. 
  • Besides, 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% of firms with female top managers.
  • Further, women’s estimated earned income is only one-fifth of men’s, which puts India among the bottom 10 globally on this indicator. 
  • Discrimination against women has also been reflected in Health and Survival subindex statistics.
  • India ranks among the bottom five countries in this subindex.
  • The wide sex ratio at birth gaps is due to the high incidence of gender-based sex-selective practices.
  • Besides, more than one in four women has faced intimate violence in her lifetime.
  • 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.
Which schemes can help it close this gap?
  • Schemes such as Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, direct cash transfer of ₹500 to women’s accounts, Ujjwala Scheme, One Stop Centre Scheme, and Sukanya Samriddhi are steps in the right direction.
  • But, there is a need for the successful implementation of existing schemes.
  • Very few firms have appointed one independent woman director on the board.
  • A women’s reservation bill is still pending despite almost all national parties declaring commitment.
Way forward
  • 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.
  • But small steps also count.
  • Higher representation of female leaders can be a source of inspiration for others to pursue their dreams and aspirations. Improved access to information among women can build their professional interest and increase their economic participation.
  • A concerted effort between the local and national levels can drive change.
  • With the WEF 2021 report data staring in our face, the country must invest and commit towards this for a more promising future to meet its commitments towards achieving the UN SDGs.



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