India fares worse than Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bhutan; scores low in political parity indices

Score dragged down from last assessment due to widening education, political disparity

Photo for representation: iStock

Of the 30 Union ministers in the newly formed Indian cabinet, only two are women. Overall, the number of ministers in the central council has reduced from 10 in the previous government to seven. 

This disparity is unfortunate but not surprising, considering that the country has one of the largest gender gaps in the world, according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2024 released by the World Economic Forum. 

In the 18th installment of the analysis, India ranked the third-lowest among the South Asian economies, faring worse than Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bhutan. 

Global Gender Gap Index rankings by region, 2024

The low representation of the women in the current cabinet is despite the fact that the country had the best rank (65) in the ‘Political Empowerment’ parameter. In the other categories of the assessment, the gender gap was among the largest in India. The country’s ranks among 146 economies in the other three categories were:

  • Economic Participation and Opportunity 142
  • Health and Survival 142
  • Educational Attainment 112

Overall, India ranked 129 in this year’s index, scoring marginally lower than the previous edition. “This slight regression is mainly the result of small declines in ‘Educational Attainment’ and ‘Political Empowerment’, while ‘Economic Participation and Opportunity’ slightly improved,” the authors of the report noted. 

In 2012, India’s economic parity peaked at 46 per cent. Although the country has moved towards closing the gender gap in this category in the last four editions, it will need a 6.2 percentage point improvement from the latest score to reach the high of 2012, according to the authors. “Achieving that objective will be possible through bridging gender gaps in estimated earned income (28.6 per cent); legislative, senior officials, and management roles (14.4 per cent); labour-force participation rate (45.9 per cent); and professional and technical workers (49.4 per cent),” they added.

In the Political Empowerment subindex, India scores within the top-10 on the head-of-state indicator (40.7 per cent), the analysts noted. However, India’s scores for women’s representation at the federal level, in ministerial positions (6.9 per cent) and in parliament (17.2 per cent), remain relatively low, they flagged.

India’s score in ‘Educational Attainment’ also contributed to a lower parity status compared to the previous assessment cycles. “While the shares of women are high in primary, secondary and tertiary education enrolments, they have only been modestly increasing, and the gap between men and women’s literacy rate is 17.2 percentage points wide, leaving India ranked 124th on this indicator,” the authors highlighted. 

Political disparity is high in entire South Asia, the report showed, although the region has moved 4 percentage points towards political parity since 2006, buoyed by consistently high parity scores on the head-of-state indicator over time, the authors highlighted. The region is lagging behind in many of the other indicators in the subindex, they flagged with examples:  

At the ministerial level, only Nepal (23.5 per cent) comes close to reaching the global average score for this indicator. Women’s representation in parliaments across the region is also low compared to other regions. Only Nepal (49.9 per cent) surpasses the global average score of 33 per cent.

Among the eight regions studied, Southern Asia ranked seven with a gender parity score of 63.7 per cent. This was an improvement of +3.9 percentage points in its overall gender gap score since 2006. “Six out of the seven economies in the region rank below the top 100,” the authors noted. Only Bangladesh – first in the region – got a double-digit rank of 99. At this rate, the region will take seven generations to attain gender parity. 

“Improvement in political participation of women has the most impact as it is where the gap is largest, with top-level positions remaining largely inaccessible for women globally,” the researchers noted. 

In some other parts of the world, there were reasons to cheer. Labour-force participation rates for women, which had dipped to 62.3 per cent during the pandemic, have rebounded to 65.7 per cent globally, the report stated.

The world has closed 68.5 per cent of the gender gap, with Europe having the least disparity across parameters. 

The region that made remarkable headway this year was Latin America and the Caribbean.  The region recorded its highest economic parity score to date (65.7 per cent) and the second-highest regional political empowerment score (34 per cent), the authors of the report highlighted. 

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