Numbers don’t lie: India is becoming a worse place for women

Treat them better.
Treat them better.
Image: Reuters/Adnan Abidi
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India is leaving its women behind.

The country ranked a lowly 108 out of 144 in the global gender gap report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) on Nov. 02. Last year, it stood at 87.

In the WEF report, countries are ranked on parameters of gender equality in health, education, economics, and politics. India’s performance in the health and survival category has been particularly dismal. It remained the world’s least improved country in this measure over the past decade, ranking the fourth-lowest at 141 this year.

India hardly fared better on economic participation and opportunity, finishing at 139. That’s not surprising considering women’s labour participation in India stands at around 28%. And about 66% of the work women do remains unpaid, compared to just 12% of the work undertaken by men. This unpaid work includes time spent on household chores, shopping, caring for family members, and travel related to the household.

India’s performance on educational attainment is also quite dreadful. The country ranked 112, despite managing to bridge the gender gap in enrollment in primary and tertiary education. 

The only bright spot is political empowerment, where it ranked 15. To retain this position, however, India will need a new generation of female political leadership, the report added. Even on this parameter, women account for less than 20% of all ministerial jobs and parliamentary seats.

Overall, several of its neighbours fared better than India.

Within the country itself, there are wide regional disparities. For instance, Goa is the safest place for women in India, performing well on parameters such as poverty, protection, education, and health, according to a report released by the ministry of women and child development on Nov. 01. On the other hand, states such as Bihar and Jharkhand perform poorly on all parameters. A few states, including Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, score well on education and protection but rank badly on poverty.

Meanwhile, the global scene is rather depressing, too. The overall index has seen a dip for the first time since its inception in 2006. In all, it will now take about 100 years to bridge the overall gender gap, the report warned. Last year, that estimate stood at 83 years. And to bridge the economic gender gap, the WEF estimates that it’ll likely take two centuries. In the words of Saadia Zahidi, the WEF’s head of education, gender, and work, “It was a disappointing year.”