India’s dismal performance on Global Gender Gap Index


India has been ranked a low 108 out 144 countries on the gender equality scale, slipping from 87 last year, according to the Global Gender Gap Index (2017) released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) recently.


  • India’s rank slipped 21 places, behind neighbours China and Bangladesh, primarily due to less participation of women in the economy and low wages.
  • The top ranks continue to be held by the Nordic countries of Iceland, Norway and Finland, Bangladesh, at 47th position, holds the highest rank in South Asia.

Key highlights of the report:

  • Economic front: On an average, a woman in India is estimated to earn less than a quarter of the annual income earned by a man.
  • Women account for over a third of the labour force participation, but their share of daily unpaid work (household chores, childcare etc) is 65 per cent while it is only 11 per cent for men.
  • Across sectors, only 13 per cent of senior officials, managers and legislators are women.
  • Educational Attainment” and “Political Empowerment”: The Index also takes into account “Educational Attainment” and “Political Empowerment”. The report attributed much of India’s decline in position on the overall Global Gender Gap Index to a widening of its gender gaps in political empowerment as well as healthy life expectancy and basic literacy.
  • According to the WEF Global Gender Gap Report 2017, India has closed 67% of its gender gap, less than many of its international peers, and some of its neighbours like Bangladesh ranked 47th while China was placed at 100th.
  • The case is worse in terms of workplace gender divide, which the report estimates will take 217 years to close.
  • The report notes that India has succeeded in fully closing its primary and secondary education enrolment gender gaps and is very near to closing its tertiary education gender gap, but the overall literacy rate still shows disparity between the men (80 per cent) and women (59 per cent).

Top performers:

  • At the top of the Global Gender Gap Index is The country has closed nearly 88% of its gap. It has been the world’s most gender-equal country for nine years.
  • Others in the top 10 include Norway (2nd), Finland (3rd), Rwanda (4) and Sweden (5), Nicaragua (6) and Slovenia (7), Ireland (8), New Zealand (9) and the Philippines (10).

Comparison with previous year:

  • The findings in this year’s report, showed that an overall 68% of the global gender gap has been closed. This is a slight deterioration from 2016 when the gap closed was 68.3%.
  • Globally also, this year’s story is a bleak one. For the first time since the WEF began measuring the gap across four pillars — health, education, the workplace and political representation — the global gap has actually widened.

Global Gender Gap Index:

  • The Global Gender Gap Index was first introduced by the World Economic Forum in 2006 as a framework for capturing the magnitude of gender-based disparities and tracking their progress over time.
  • The Index benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, education, health and political criteria, and provides country rankings that allow for effective comparison across regions and income groups.
  • The rankings are designed to create global awareness of the challenges posed by gender gaps and the opportunities created by reducing them.
  • The methodology and qualitative analysis behind the rankings are intended to serve as a basis for designing effective measures for reducing gender gaps.

Reasons for India’s abysmal ranking:

India’s abysmal ranking is mainly due to two indicators:

  • Health and Survival- At 141, India continues to be in the bottom four. Like China, the worst performer on health indicator, the report blames India’s poor sex ratio at birth which still points to a strong preference for sons.
  • Economic Participation and Opportunities for Women: On this count, India’s rank is 139 down from 136 last year. On this, India ranks above only Iran, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Syria-countries that are among those with the worst overall gender gap ranking.
  • According to the report in India on average , 66% of women’s work is unpaid compared to 12 % of men’s.
  • On a positive note, India succeeded in fully closing its primary and secondary education enrolment gender gaps for the second year running and for the first time has nearly closed its tertiary education gender gap. However, it continues to rank fourth-lowest in the world on health and survival, remaining the world’s least-improved country on this sub-index over the past decade, the WEF stated.

Need for more women participation:

Women participation in workforce is need to be improved due to the following reasons:

  • Higher women presence would ensure that the growth process is inclusive in nature, unlike the post-independence growth impact.
  • IMF has predicted that women’s participation in economy could boost India’s GDP.
  • Women used to be more resilient by nature. Such approach is highly needed for the success of start-ups in India.
  • if women largely stay out of the labour force, this effect will be much weaker and India could run up labour shortages in key sectors of the economy.
  • The better financial management of Women, as shown by the skill in managing domestic affairs, will lead to better utilization of limited fiscal space available in India.
  • More women participation will lead to reduced sub-ordination effect as prevalent in patriarchal India.
  • More women participation at workplace would also pave the way for “equal pay for equal work” as envisaged in Article 39 of the Indian Constitution.

Reasons for low participation of women in workforce:

India’s female labour force participation in economic activities is very low due to the following reasons:

  • Dual responsibility: The women being entrusted with dual responsibility (household chores and professional work) their economic participation and performance is compromised.
  • Few states like Bihar and UP are worst in women’s participation.
  • Low literacy: Lower levels of literacy and education compared to men deprives them to access to skilled economic opportunities.
  • Engaged in Informal sector: Women are predominantly engaged in agricultural and informal sector in India:
  • Security issues: Issues related to safety and increasing case of sexual violence act as a deterrent with respect to occupational mobility.
  • Patrachial mindset: Patrachial mindset which stereotypes women of being a homemaker and bear their children reluctancy in employers to keep women given their disadvantages to work more time and not leave jobs.
  • Caste Factor: notably in some upper caste community, there may be a stigma attached to women working outside homes. It increases family and social pressure to drop out.

Steps to increase women participation in workplace:

  • Increasing higher education opportunities for women which will help them in getting necessary training and skill to do jobs.
  • Increasing awareness about women’s participation and gather support from society and men to help women fulfill their responsibilities.
  • Increasing the maternity leave, flexible working hours, support from employers will help women in managing both home and office and less women will leave jobs.
  • There is urgent need for effective legislative and bureaucratic support for Women reservation bill in Parliament, ensuring effective implementation of reservation in Panchayats and municipalities.
  • Mahila Kosh should be expanded and funds should be dedicated for startups and business.
  • Girls child education should be made compulsory. Right to education can be amended for this.
  • Strict implementation of Sexual harassment of women at workplace act should be implemented, with onus on employers to install CCTV, cab facility with necessary government support and incentive for hiring female employees.
  • Commoditization of women needs to be checked.
  • Gender segmentation need to be avoided by making more jobs suitable for women.
  • Encouraging entrepreneurship among women as women are more likely to be employed by a woman owner.
  • Adequate maternity benefits and crèche facility must be provided as has been done by the recent amendment in maternity bill.

Government initiatives for increasing women participation in workforce:

Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill 2017:

  • The Government is taking steps to encourage female labour force participation by passing Maternity Benefit Amendment Act.
  • The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill 2017, an amendment to the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, was passed in Lok Sabha, and received an assent from President of India on March 27,2017.
  • The Maternity Benefit Act 1961 protects the employment of women during the time of her maternity and entitles her of a ‘maternity benefit’ – i.e. full paid absence from work – to take care for her child. The act is applicable to all establishments employing 10 or more persons.

Key amendments:

Increased Paid Maternity Leave:

  • The Maternity Benefit Amendment Act has increased the duration of paid maternity leave available for women employees from the existing 12 weeks to 26 weeks.

Work from Home option:

  • The Maternity Benefit Amendment Act has also introduced an enabling provision relating to “work from home” for women, which may be exercised after the expiry of the 26 weeks’ leave period.

Crèche facility:

  • The Maternity Benefit Amendment Act makes crèche facility mandatory for every establishment employing 50 or more employees.
  • Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY) Scheme is being implemented as Conditional Maternity Benefit for pregnant and lactating women to improve health and nutrition status to better enabling environment by providing cash incentives to pregnant and nursing mothers to partly compensate wage loss both prior to and after delivery.
  • The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013: It has been enacted, which covers all women, irrespective of their age or employment status and protect them against sexual harassment at all workplaces both in public and private sector, whether organised or unorganised.


  • Gender balancing in the labour participation is the state where there is equal percentage of both male and female in the total labour force of any country .It is being one of the key factors of many developed economics wherein the underdeveloped or developed countries like India, gender balancing is a big problem . Increasing awareness about women’s participation and gather support from society and men to help women will help in solving this problem.
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