Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Gender Gap

After the CWG fiasco here comes another disheartening report which should wake us up.

The Global Gender Gap report by the World Economic Forum.

The Index benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, political, education- and healthbased criteria, and provides country rankings that allow for effective comparisons across regions and income groups, and over time. The rankings are designed to create greater awareness among a global audience of the challenges posed by gender gaps and the opportunities created by reducing them. The methodology and quantitative analysis behind the rankings are intended to serve as a basis for designing effective measures for reducing gender gaps.
As always, curiosity made me look into the report, to try and understand what I can.

India has been ranked 112 (out of 134 countries).

Also, like many I wondered why India went below Philippines (with rank 9 and highest amongst the Asia and Pacific countries) and also Kuwait (women were given voting rights only recently) and UAE, specially when India has a woman in three of the most important positions, namely Sushma Swaraj of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and currently the Leader of the Opposition, Sonia Gandhi, President of the Indian National Congress and Prathiba Patil the Indian President. Sonia Gandhi was also ranked 13th in the Forbes most powerful women in year 2009, although they have not ranked her this year. But the report has taken into account this factor and hence India ranks 23rd in the political empowerment. Yet, this seems to have made no impact on other crucial areas namely, Literacy Rate, Infant Mortality, Maternal Mortality and even Wage Equality for Similar Work.

Now if you are wondering why this should bother us:

For instance, the United Nations estimates that, only in the Asian region, about $47 billion of yearly output are lost every year from a lack of female participation in labour markets, as reported in United Nations (2007).
Gender discrimination has widespread ramifications and clear economic and social costs. The Asia-Pacific region has made good progress in reducing gender discrimination in recent years, but appalling disparities remain. The region is losing $42-$47 billion per year because of restrictions on women’s access to employment opportunities – and another $16-$30 billion per year because of gender gaps in education. Those are just the economic costs – added to them are social and personal costs.
In some countries, one in every 10 girls dies before reaching the age of one, and one in every 50 women dies during pregnancy and delivery.
India and also Philippines falls under the Lower Middle Income Group of countries and this may be one reason why India (with a larger population) lag behind countries like Kuwait and UAE who are grouped under the High Income.  Sri Lanka has retained it's position and is doing well despite the turmoil it went through. And these countries are much ahead when it comes to educating their females. And education seems to be the crucial factor. In terms of literacy, India has only 51 females (out of 75 men) while more women than men gets the basic education in Philipines (95 female and 93 men). Even China's literacy rate is excellent 91-97. Sadly Pakistan is ranked the lowest in the Asia and Pacific region and those dollars which came in has not done it any good and for that matter it may go down further if the Taliban get's it's way.

There is also one more interesting fact that I noted; if one assumes that there are smart men and women who are equally good at their jobs, then when lesser women are getting educated, some jobs are being filled up by the not so smart men :)  We are aware of some of those women who are doing very good.  Indira Nooyi  who is ranked 6th  in the latest report (Forbes most powerful women)  maybe ignored since her field is not India ( situation is not favorable ?) but yet there is still Chanda Kocchar  who runs ICICI, India’s second largest bank and she is ranked #92. I am sure she deserves a better rank since this bank seems to be standing up quite well when others elsewhere keep tumbling down occasionally. (103 failures in the period Jan-Jul 2010). Now I am not sure if women are better or worse  in jobs, although my blogger friend seems to have an opinion on them. I think it is because they need time to get used to the idea. But there are international companies who have made it a policy to hire 50% of women since it works better for them.  PWC is one example.

Klaus Schwab, the chairman of the WEF, said: "Low gender gaps are directly correlated with high economic competitiveness.

"We still need a true gender equality revolution, not only to mobilise a major pool of talent both in terms of volume and quality, but also to create a more compassionate value system within all our institutions."

Many analysis shows that gender inequality in education prevents progress in reducing fertility and child mortality rates, thereby compromising progress in well-being in developing countries.

First, gender inequality in education and access to resources may prevent a reduction of child mortality, of fertility, and an expansion of education of the next generation.

Greater education increases her health knowledge which improves her ability to promote the health of her children (World Bank, 1993), and greater bargaining power increases her say over household resources which often leads to greater allocations to child health and nutrition, compared to their husbands. For example, Thomas (1990) found that the impact of unearned income on child survival was 20 times greater if the income was brought in by the mother than if it was brought in by the father.

And, gender gap can also affect the Total Fertility Rate.
Total fertility rate

The total fertility rate (TFR) is an important determinant of development because the resources available per capita are fundamental to the development process. A high TFR squeezes resources (per capita) within a household, as well as at the national level, diminishing the health and education of children and the wellbeing of families. High fertility leads particularly to poor health and education of women and children, creating
a vicious cycle. A low TFR, however, enables countries to spend more on health and education, leading to improved social welfare.

There is a high correlation between TFR and per capita income, with higher TFR leading to lower incomes figure 3.10). The TFR is also a good indicator of women’s control over their reproductive rights and  health, of progress in gender relations, and of education, particularly that of women.

Now, to reduce population some may want to go the Sanjay Gandhi way (though it may have appealed to at least a few if he and his brother had set out an example themselves!). But if educating the female population can indeed bring down the overall population and much more, then it is time India spend more money on this than affairs like CWG's. CWG did give us Indians a high for a few days but I do not think it has done much for the long term.



  1. The Gender Gap indicates so clearly that we have such huge discrepancy in India. As you have noted, desptie the high politcal enpowerment, women on the ground level are not as enpowered as some countries which we assume would have fared worse than ours.

    Yes, money spent on the CWG could have certainly be spent in much, much better ways - no two ways about it.

  2. Very informative post! Yes, as you say, educating the female population would certainly be of great help in improving the situation.

    Yesterday there was an article in the Indian express about how an innovative software has helped increase the number of women having their deliveries in hospitals/nursing homes, instead of at home- in Nanded dist. in Maharashtra.

    But it took a lot of effort by the health workers to get the women, as well as their families to accept this idea, which will definitely improve the heath of women.

    People resist change, and education will help to overcome this resistance.

  3. It is an eye opener.The fault lies with us.As for the govt is concerned, they have no reason or insentive to improve the situation.
    And, Sonia Gandhi or sushma swaraj don't represent Indian women

  4. Great to see you back in full form! Yes even I feel that the CWG money could have been put to much better use. What the powers that be don't seem to understand is that educating women will mean raising the entire education level and awareness of society as a whole, because undoubtedly it's from their mothers that children get maximum wisdom.

  5. No wonder why we have so many gay men these days!!

  6. Jon: those are not new in our world.. u should have read it from history if not from the Bible :)

    Why cant smart women make the men perform smarter? be positive :)

  7. Smitha: Guess in politics women are only there to garner votes while the men run the show.. else why havent these women made any difference?
    nd now we shall spend more on CWG enquiries and commissions! God save our nation..

  8. Manju: Yes..People resist change, and education will help to overcome this resistance.

    Education is not just for taking up a job but it also helps in taking important decisions.

  9. BKC: It was an eye opener and rather a rude shock to me! At least Sushma worked her way up and she and such others can represent the Indian women in a better manner.

    Dreamer: am a little busy at work these days but this report made me find some time...
    nd you said it..because undoubtedly it's from their mothers that children get maximum wisdom.

  10. Interesting take! Really an informative post. Beautifully presented. Thanks for sharing :)

    Romeo Das
    When love calls

  11. Very informative post.

    Yes, education is the key.That will enable an increasing number of women to earn as much as men do. But along with education is the need to move more people away from agriculture by making it more mechanised. Tough one, considering how small landholdings are in India. That will further break up the joint family system in which boys are prized because they contribute directly to the family income.

  12. Vinod: Missed your comments in my blog :)

    It may break up the joint family system, but how is that only boys contribute directly to the family income?

  13. Seriously we are a nation of underachieves in many ways. While it is very valid in the case of women, it is so for the men too. You will see that after you gauge the caliber of people in other parts of the world. the difference being that these guys/gals do something, whereas our people procrastinate of grumble and do nothing.

    Look at the number of women businesswomen on Indian origin in US. They are there not because they were pushed & prodded, but the need to achieve and rise above the shoulders of others is drilled into every person early on in life.

    back home, it is more like chalta hai, we will be what we are fated to be - i guess, especially women.

  14. There is an important point that was overlooked.You forgot that India has more muslims than Pakistan itself and Islam doesnot encourage woman's education or employment. That one factor would defenitely affect all the results.Philipines is a very modern county,imitating America in every thing in lifestyle,marriage and divorces,and extra marital sex.Sri Lanka is the largest exportor of housemaids in the world,so naturally their employment rates would come high.

    Then,dont be taken away by statistics.Things are improving in India.It is a joke if some one tells me that women in UAE and Kuwait are better previlaged.And where does Saudi Arabia stand? Most of these data are purposeful attempts to pull down an upcoming nation.

  15. Maddy: Yes, there seems to be a factor that lets men and women perform better when outside India even when the Indian mindset have no problem in having a women at the helm. Indira Gandhi and many others are examples. In fact the Indian culture was always more conducive to such an idea than the Western countries. Do you think Sarah Palin and Mrs. Clinton shall ever realize their dreams in the US soil :) .. unless things have changed….
    In India the scenario is changing in the job front in major cities but yet there is still a long way to go.

    Dr. Antony: A warm welcome to my blog.
    Please bear in mind that UAE and Kuwait are also Islamic countries, but the girls are being sent to school and they also work in great numbers [drive to work :)]. In fact here in Kuwait, it is more of the women who pursue higher studies compared to the men. I am not sure if these women lack much but yet again it is also because they belong to the higher income group of countries. Saudi is different and even the numbers says so. As for India and Pakistan, the numbers may have been affected for the reason that you suggested but I still think that there are many among the poor who cannot afford education or are not being considered important enough to be educated, no matter to what religion they belong to. Poverty cannot be ignored. Even I do believe that things are changing for the better specially after schemes for girls have been brought about in schools.

    As for Philipines, I am sure you did not mean to tell me that education is the reason behind your accusations. Taliban is of the same opinion :)

    Sri Lanka was a prosperous nation until the internal problems started. (Indians have sought the place for jobs) The internal turmoil is one reason why so many women had to go outside but yet again it is not a big country like India and was able to manage it's affairs. I think it is the attitude that matters.


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