India has fallen 28 spots to rank 140th among 156 countries on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index. In 2020, India had ranked 112th among 153 countries on the index.

“The index benchmarks the evolution of gender-based gaps among four key dimensions – Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment – and tracks progress towards closing these gaps over time,” the World Economic Forum said in its Global Gender Gap Report 2021, which was released on Tuesday.

The report said that India had so far closed 62.5% of its gender gap. It noted that most of the decline was seen on the Political Empowerment sub-index, where India went back 13.5 percentage points. “The main change that took place this year is the significant decline in the share of women among ministers, which halved, from 23.1% in 2019 to 9.1% in 2021,” the report added. “In addition, the share of women in parliament remains stagnant at 14.4% and the share of the last 50 years in which a woman has been head of state is 15.5%.”

The Global Gender Gap Report added that reduction in women’s labour force participation rate was another reason for the drop in India’s rank. “In addition, the share of women in professional and technical roles declined further to 29.2%,” the report said. “The share of women in senior and managerial positions also remains low: only 14.6% of these positions are held by women and there are only 8.9% of firms with female top managers.”

Read the complete Global Gender Gap Report 2021 here

The report also said that the estimated earned income of women in India was one-fifth of men’s, which put India among the bottom 10 countries globally on that indicator. “Discrimination against women is also reflected in Health and Survival sub-index statistics,” the report added. “With 93.7% of this gap closed to date, India ranks among the bottom five countries in this sub-index. Wide sex ratio at birth gaps are due to high incidence of gender-based sex-selective practices.”

The report showed that though India had closed 96.2% of the Educational Attainment sub-index gender gap, certain gaps existed in terms of literacy. “One third of women are illiterate (34.2%) compared to 17.6% of men,” it added.

Bangladesh best performer in South Asia, India third-worst

The report showed that South Asia was the lowest performer on the index after West Asia and North Africa.

“Within the region, a wide gulf separates the best-performing country, Bangladesh, which has closed 71.9% of its gender gap so far, from Afghanistan, which has only closed 44.4% of its gap,” the report said. India is the third-worst performer in the region, after Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The World Economic Forum’s report showed that in South Asia, only Bhutan and Nepal had shown progress towards gender parity in 2021.

Globally, Iceland, Finland, Norway, New Zealand and Sweden are the world’s most gender-equal countries, the report added.

‘Pandemic pushed back gender equality by a generation’

The World Economic Forum’s report said that another generation of women will have to wait for gender equality as 36 more years were added to the time left to close gender gap. “As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be felt, closing the global gender gap has increased by a generation from 99.5 years to 135.6 years,” the report said.

It noted that women continued to face economic and workplace difficulties and declining political participation, despite the progress in education and health. The report also called for the enforcement of strategies that stress on equal hiring practices and skills development.