Business Standard

131 years to close gap as Gender equality is stalling, says WEF report

The report states that India has ranked 127 out of 146 countries in terms of gender parity. Statistically, the country has improved by 1.4% points and eight positions since last year

feminism, sexism, equality, female, male

Photo: Shutterstock

Anuradha Mishra New Delhi

Listen to This Article

Despite a recovery trend to pre-Covid-19 levels, gender parity globally remains to show stagnant figures, shows World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2023. The report, launched Wednesday, states that the overall gender gap has closed by 0.3 per cent in comparison to 2022 statistics.

The shrinking educational attainment gap has added to the improvement wherein 117 out of 146 indexed countries have closed the gap by at least 95 per cent. Meanwhile, the economic participation and opportunity gap have closed by 60.1 per cent and the political empowerment gap by just 22.1 per cent.

Since the first edition of the report in 2006, parity has advanced by only 4.1 per cent points, with the overall rate of change slowing significantly. Closing the overall gender gap will require 131 years, the report highlights. Moreover, at the current rate of progress, it may take 169 years for economic parity and 162 years for political parity.

India climbs eight places to 127 in global gender index

The WEF report states that India has ranked 127 out of 146 countries in terms of gender parity. Statistically, the country has improved by 1.4 per cent points and eight positions since last year (it was positioned at 135) – a partial recovery towards its 2020 parity level.

India’s neighbour Bangladesh was spotted in double-digit rank at 59, whereas Pakistan was ranked at 142, China at 107, Nepal at 116, Sri Lanka at 115, and Bhutan at 103.

Iceland has been recognised as the most gender-equal country in the world for the 14th consecutive year becoming the country to have closed more than 90% of its gender gap. 

Though no country has yet achieved full gender parity, the top nine ranking countries including Iceland, Norway, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden, Germany, Nicaragua, Namibia and Lithuania have closed at least 80% of their gap. 

Why is the glass ceiling so hard to break?

The state of gender parity in the labour market remains a major challenge, the report states hinting at a slipping trend of women’s participation globally. It further noted that markers of economic opportunity have also been showing substantive disparities between women and men.

Not all hope is lost as ‘women have been (re-)entering the workforce at a slightly higher rate than men’ the report notes. This has led to a marginal recovery (63 to 64 per cent) in gender parity in the labour-force participation rate since the 2022 report. Still, women continue to face higher unemployment rates than men with a global unemployment rate of around 4.5 per cent for women and 4.3 per cent for men.

A women-led leadership crisis? 

According to the report, global data provided by LinkedIn covering 163 countries shows that while women account for 41.9 per cent of the workforce in 2023, their share in senior leadership positions (director, vice-president or C-suite) is nearly 10 per cent lower at 32.2 per cent. 

Though the proportion of women hired into leadership positions was steadily increasing by about 1% per year globally for the past eight years, the trend reversed in 2023 thereby regressing to 2021 levels.

On a positive note, the report highlights that STEM jobs are typically well-remunerated for women and are expected to grow in significance and scope. In artificial intelligence, talent availability has surged, increasing sixfold between 2016 and 2022 (with 30 per cent of women working in AI today) – a minimal 4 per cent points higher than it was in 2016.

For online education, the report underlines a persistent digital divide as one of the factors leading to inequality of opportunity between men and women learners. Progress has been sluggish, it states wherein enrolment in technical skills such as technological literacy, AI, and big data stands at 43.7 per cent and 33.7 per cent respectively.

However, the data suggests that when women do enroll, they tend to attain the most proficiency levels in skill categories studied in less time compared to men.

Way Forward

Increasing women’s economic participation and achieving gender parity in leadership, in both business and government, have been identified as two key factors to address broader gender gaps in households, societies, and economies.

“An economic rebound requires the full power of creativity and diverse ideas and skills. We cannot afford to lose momentum on women’s economic participation and opportunity,” says Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director, World Economic Forum in a release by the forum.

Don't miss the most important news and views of the day. Get them on our Telegram channel

First Published: Jun 21 2023 | 6:54 PM IST

Explore News