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Global Gender Gap Index

Published: 5th Apr, 2021

Recently the Global Gender Gap Index was released by the World Economic Forum. India has been one of the worst performers in South Asia and has fallen 28 places in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021.


Recently the Global Gender Gap Index was released by the World Economic Forum. India has been one of the worst performers in South Asia and has fallen 28 places in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021.


  • The Global Gender Gap Index is released by the World Economic Forum. It was first introduced in 2006 to benchmark progress towards gender parity.
  • It was the 15th edition of the Global Gender Gap Report 2021 which comes out a little late over one year after COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic.
  • It is an index that is designed to measure gender equality.
  • The released report examines four overall areas of inequality between men and women-
  • Economic participation and opportunity
  • Educational attainment
    • Political empowerment
    • Health and survival
  • It tracks the progress for the closing of the gender gaps over time.


Key global findings of the reports

  • Iceland is declared as the most gender-equal country in the world for the 12th time, which is followed by Norway, Finland, and Sweden.
  • The five most-improved nations in the overall index are Lithuania, Serbia, Timor-Leste, Togo, and United Arab Emirates. These countries had narrowed down their gender gaps by at least 4.4 percentage points or more.
  • Western Europe had remained the most progressed region with the gender parity at 77.6%.
  • The Middle East and North Africa region again remain the area with the largest gap of 60.9%.
  • Three new countries have been assessed for the first time: Afghanistan with 44.4% of the gender gap, rank- 156th), Guyana (72.8%, rank- 53rd), and Niger (62.9%, rank-138th).
  • In the report, global gender gap analysis is based on the following patterns:

1. Gender gap in Political Empowerment

  • The gap under this category remains the largest of the four gaps tracked. The gap has been further widened since the 2020 edition of the report by 2.4 percentage points.
  • At the current rate of progress, the World Economic Forum estimates that it will take more than 145.5 years to attain gender parity in politics.

2. Gender gap in Economic Participation and Opportunity

  • It is the second-largest of the four key gaps tracked by the index. A marginal improvement was seen in the gap since the 2020 edition of the report and as a result, we estimate that it will take another 267.6 years to close the gap.

3. Gender gaps in Educational Attainment:

  • In Educational Attainment, 95% of this gender gap has been closed globally, with 37 countries already at parity.
  • The index estimates that on this current trajectory, it will take another 14.2 years to completely close this gap in terms of gender.

4. Gender gaps in Health and Survival

  • Globally, the average distance completed to parity is at 68%, a step back compared to 2020 (-0.6 percentage points).
  • On its current trajectory, it will now take 135.6 years to close the gender gap worldwide

What are the observations made for India?

  • India has ranked 140 out of 156 countries. It has slipped to 28 places from the last year.
  • Political Empowerment: India has declined on the political empowerment index as well in the number of women ministers.
  • It has performed relatively well in women’s participation in politics and ranked 51. The upward movement in rank was observed due to several females to the male head of state ratio. However, India did not perform well in the women representation in parliament and ministerial positions. This shows that the opportunities were not given to women for proper representation in Parliament.
  • Health and survival: India secured rank 155 on this front. Its performance on Sex ratio at birth and healthy life expectancy has remained dismal. Despite several women-centric health programs, the rank in this front shows the lack of access or leakages in the system.
  • Economic Participation and Opportunity: India got rank 151 on this end. This shows a poor labor force participation rate, inequality in wages for similar work, reduction in income, less participation as legislators, senior officials, and managers. The equal pay for equal work notion has not done well for women. And Still, a large gap exists in terms of position and payment for women.
  • Education attainment: In the index of education attainment India has ranked at 114. India has shown improvement in the literacy rate. On the enrolment front for primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of education, India has performed very well. The Right to education has been one of the major reasons for the improvement of this parameter.

What are the reasons behind the gap?

  • Gender-based sex-selective practices: High incidence of gender-based sex-selective practices is behind the wide gaps in sex ratio at birth.
  • Violence: Besides, more than one in four women have faced intimate violence in their lifetime.
  • Low rate of literacy: Gender gaps persist in terms of literacy.
  • Economic difficulties: Women continue to face economic and workplace difficulties and declining political participation, despite the progress in education and health.

Steps taken by the Government to reduce the gender gap

  • Health sector initiatives: ICDS (Integrated child development services, Matritva Sahyog Yojana for Pregnant and lactating women, Matru Vandanayojna, and Janani Suraksha Yojna are some of the health sector initiatives for women.
  • Gender gap reduction: STEP scheme, MGNREGA are some of the initiatives for gender gap reduction.
  • Educational initiatives: Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, Right to Education, Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas are some of the educational initiatives.
  • Reservation in Parliament: The Women's Reservation Bill (108th amendment) was introduced in the parliament to reserve 33% of Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha seats for women but the bill has yet to be passed by Lok Sabha.

Suggestions to reduce the gap

  • Social integration: A more social integration is required to bring parity among the gender. The removal of prejudices and awareness generation through sensitization programs can be effective.
  • Employment opportunities: Women's employment should be increased in the formal sector. A more healthy working environment for women, equal salary, promotion for higher positions, removal of prejudices, and skill training programs should be adopted.
  • Reservation of seats in Parliament: Seats should be reserved for women in parliament, so they can have good participation in the governance and sensitize the population.
  • Education: More female-centric schemes, scholarships, hostels should be improved.
  • Spreading awareness against child abuse and violence: Stopping sex identification and abortions, sensitization of female issues should be encouraged. Promoting NGOs to eradicate Gender Inequality can be taken.

Way Forward

The slippage by a huge rank on the gender gap index is a major concern for India, which indicates the reduced level of women equality. The situation needs to be handled with vigor otherwise the other important half of the population will be left out of the path of growth.

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