Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Gender Gap Index

It is a marginal improvement, from 114 to 113, up a notch from last year. But still, nothing to be proud of. From Infochange India, on India's place in the Gender Gap Index.

India ranks a poor 113th on Gender Gap Index

A World Economic Forum study measuring gender equality around the world places India 113th among 130 countries. In its overall ranking, the country ranks lowest among the four BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries, and, shockingly, behind such countries as Bangladesh and the United Arab Emirates

India figures among 20 countries in the world where the gender gap is the widest, and stands sixth in economic inequality between men and women, according to the World Economic Forum’s ‘Global Gender Gap Report 2008’.

But it has improved its overall ranking by one position, from 114th last year, primarily due to a better-than-average performance in the political empowerment space.

India’s worst performance is in the health and survival category -- managing to be ahead only of Azerbaijan and Armenia -- attributed to its dismal maternal mortality rate (calculated per 100,000 live births). This rate is 450 -- amongst the highest in the world.

China jumped 17 places to 57th rank this year on the back of narrowing gender gaps in education attainment, economic and political participation. Russia and Brazil are placed 42nd and 73rd, respectively.

Norway achieved the highest ranking, followed by Finland, Sweden and Iceland, the Nordic countries occupying all four top positions in the list released by the Geneva-based organisation on November 19, 2008.

They are followed by New Zealand, Philippines, Denmark, Ireland, Netherlands and Latvia in the top ten. The United States moved up four places to 27 this year; Germany (11), Britain (13) and Spain (17) all slipped in the rankings although they remained within the top 20, the report said.

Switzerland advanced to 14th place based on large increases in the percentage of women in parliament and those in ministerial-level positions. France improved significantly, to 15th place, because of gains in both economic participation and political empowerment.

The gap between men and women was widest in Yemen, with Chad, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Benin, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey, Ethiopia and Bahrain near the bottom of the list.

The rankings are based on four parameters -- economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment, and health and survival.

“Globally, progress has been made on narrowing the gaps in educational attainment, political empowerment and economic participation, while the gap in health has widened,” the Forum said. The report shows how equally the sexes are represented and compensated at the workplace and in government, as well as gauging access to schools, universities and medical care.

India ranks 125th in terms of economic participation and opportunity, 116th in educational attainment, 25th in terms of political empowerment, and 128th in health and survival. The rankings, especially in the health and survival category, prove that economic growth alone does not translate to better lives for Indian women.

An Indian woman can expect to live healthily for as long or even a year longer than a man. But given that in most parts of the world women outlive men by as much as five to seven years, this is hardly as uplifting a statistic as it may seem.

“Greater representation of women in senior leadership positions within government and financial institutions is vital not only to find solutions to the current economic turmoil, but to stave off such crises in future,” Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, said in a statement.

The report is the result of a collaboration between Ricardo Hausmann, director of the Centre for International Development at Harvard University, Laura Tyson, professor of business administration and economics at the University of California, Berkeley, and Saadia Zahidi, who runs the Forum’s Women Leaders Programme.

Hausmann said: “The index assesses countries on how well they are dividing their resources and opportunities among their male and female populations, regardless of the overall levels of these resources and opportunities… Thus, the index does not penalise those countries that have low levels of education overall, for example, but rather those where the distribution of education is uneven between women and men.”

Source: PTI, November 19, 2008
The Associated Press, November 19, 2008, November 2008

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