India’s Worsening Gender Gap : What Should Government Do?

Gender Gap in India

Gender Gap in India

Though the Constitution of India prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender, women’s position in the country has not improved much. Women in India are still considered to be a burden for most families on account of dowry, wedding costs, education and healthcare. Even today, the preference is for sons over daughters.  In 2011, there were 914 girls for 1,000 boys among children aged 6 years and this was supposed to be the most imbalanced gender ratio, since our country attained independence in 1947. The Hindu Succession Act of 2005 has given equal inheritance rights to ancestral and jointly owned property for women, but even this law’s enforcement is weak. Many women are still deprived of their rightful inheritance.

Gender gap in workforce

And how can we ignore the gender gap in workforce, both in urban as well as rural areas? Indian women still earn lower wages compared to men. There has also been a crunch in the women’s workforce in the country in recent years. In rural areas, the average income of a household has increased as a result of which women are withdrawing from workforce, especially from farm jobs. Also, there are very few attractive non-farm jobs for women in rural India and most of these are in the construction sector, which are not generally suitable for women. Also it is seen that a higher proportion of women are not eligible for social security benefits.

World Economic Forum gender gap index 2014

It was in the year 2006 that the gender gap index was introduced in the World Economic Forum to get an idea about the extent of gender-based disparities in various countries. The index measures gender gaps of the 142 countries on the basis of economic, political, education and health criteria.

The recent report of World Economic Forum’s 2014 gender gap index has clearly shown India’s worsening gender gap. India holds the 114 rank out of the 142 countries surveyed and it is a matter of great shame, that in spite of India’s progress in economic development, the rank has slipped by 13 positions, when its rank was 101 last year. The report has also shown that India’s performance is below average and is one of the 20 worst performing countries in terms of economic participation, educational attainment, estimated income, labour force participation, health, survival and sex ratio. On the other hand, the same report has mentioned that in terms of the political empowerment sub-index, India is among the top 20 best-performing countries. The low sex ratio at birth gives the country its overall 114th rank, which makes it the lowest-ranked BRICS nation. The alarming fact is that India is one of the few countries where female labour force participation is shrinking.

Some highlights of India’s position in World Economic Forum index 2014

India’s performance this year in gender gap index are given below:

  • Economic Participation: Rank – 134
  • Female to Male Ratio in Labour Force Participation: 0.36
  • High Income Disparity: Female, USD1980 : Male, USD8087
  • Educational Attainment: Rank – 126
  • Female to Male ratio in Literacy Rate: 0.68.
  • Health and Survival: Rank – 141, the second-lowest performing country just ahead of Armenia.
  • Political Empowerment: Rank – 15

The report also mentioned that the highest difference between women and men on the average minutes spent per day on unpaid work is seen in India with a difference of 300 minutes. India also shows highest difference in the female and male percentage of total R&D personnel. It is also one of the lowest female participation in ownership of firms. It’s a matter of serious concern that on account of a decrease in the female-to-male sex ratio at birth, India will take almost 81 years more to attain gender parity at the workplace.

What has the Government done?

The Government of India along with the various States and Union Territories have initiated a number of programmes targeted with the objective of reducing gender inequality and to increase women’s empowerment over the 1989-2013 period. Some of these programmes are Sampoorna Gramin Rozgar Yojana, Swarnajayanti Gram Swarozgar Yojana, Awareness Generation Projects for Rural and Poor women, Kishori Shakti Yojana, Swayamsidha Mahila Mandal Programme, Condensed Course of Education for Adult Women, Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women, Swawalamban Programme, Swashakti Project, Integrated Child Development Services, Balika Samriddhi Yojana, National Programme of Nutritional Support to Primary Education, National Programme for Education of Girls at Elementary Level, Ladli Laxmi Yojana, and many more.

What should the Government do?

The most recently published article on national employment trends in India show that the growth rate of employment has been negative for females. It is strange but true that India is presently at a unique position as it is the one among the fastest growing nations in the developing world. But, in spite of growth, and the Government’s efforts to reduce gender gap in health, education and employment, the socio-economic inequalities and substantial gender gaps still persists.

There is no doubt about the fact that women in India face various cultural and social challenges that act as obstacles in their path of social advancement. Lack of education, lack of health care, preference of boys over girls, discriminatory family codes, cultural stigmas are just a few instances. With more and more emphasis on this, the Government needs to bring about more reforms in the institutional treatment of women and increase women’s rights in a fast growing, modernizing society.

Ways Govt can eliminate inequalities:

  • Establishing ways and processes for women’s equitable participation and equal representation at all levels of the public life and political process in each society or community.
  • Enabling women to speak fluently and coherently their concerns and needs;
  • Promoting women’s potential through education, skill development and employment.
  • Eliminating all practices that differentiate women
  • Helping women to establish and realize their rights, including reproductive and sexual health;
  • Adopting measures to enable women to earn beyond traditional occupations and to ensure equal access to the labour market and security
  • Eliminating violence against women
  • Eliminating discrimination by employers against women
  • Making it possible for women to combine the roles of child-bearing, breast-feeding and child-rearing with active involvement in workforce.
  • Last but not the least, passing of the reservation Bill for women’s participation in Parliament so that we have more women political leaders to look into the needs of the women of our country.

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