India fell 21 places on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index to 108 – far below the global average and much behind its neighbours China and Bangladesh. India lost out mainly because of lower participation of women in the economy and low wages.

The gender gap is the difference between women and men in social, political, intellectual, cultural, or economic attainments. The Global Gender Gap Report ranks 144 countries on the progress they have made towards gender parity in four areas – health, education, economics and politics.

In 2016, India’s rank was 87. In 2006, when the World Economic Forum started measuring gender gap across the world, India’s rank was 10 notches higher than it is in 2017.

According to the 2017 report, India has closed 67% of its gender gap, but this is less than many of its neighbours such as Bangladesh, which ranked 47, and China, which was placed 100.

Where India lost out

India’s greatest challenges were in the economic participation and opportunities for women, where the country is ranked 139. “On average, 66% of women’s work in India is unpaid, compared to 12% of men’s,” the report said.

India did not perform too well in the health and survival pillar either, where it is ranked 141 – the fourth-lowest in the world.

The report said gender gaps in political empowerment, life expectancy and basic literacy also caused India’s rank to slip. It has been more than 50 years since India’s first woman prime minister came to power, it said. “Maintaining its global top 20 ranking on the political empowerment sub-index will require India to make progress on this dimension with a new generation of female political leadership.”

India, however, fully closed the gap in primary and secondary education enrolment for the second year in a row.

Around the world

The global gender gap widened this year, for the first time since the World Economic Forum’s index started. “A decade of slow but steady progress on improving parity between the sexes came to a halt in 2017,” it said.

At the current rate of progress, the global gender gap will take 100 years to bridge, compared to 83 last year. The case is worse in terms of workplace gender divide, which the report estimates will take 217 years to close.

At the top of the Global Gender Gap Index is Iceland. 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, Finland, Rwanda, Sweden, Nicaragua, Slovenia, Ireland, New Zealand and the Philippines.