BENGALURU: The fear that the Covid-19 pandemic hit women the hardest across the globe and “raised new barriers to building inclusive and prosperous economies and societies” has been proved to be true in the just published ‘Global Gender Gap Report -2021’ by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
The report states that the hardest hit sectors by lockdowns and “rapid digitalisation are those where women are more frequently employed. Combined with the additional pressures of providing care in the home, the crisis has halted progress toward gender parity in several economies and industries,” writes Saadia Zahidi, managing director and head of the Centre for the New Economy and Society, WEF.
“Gender-sensitive recovery strategies will be critical in making up ground lost during 2020 to prevent long-term scarring in the labour market,” cautions Zahidi.The 15th edition of the WEF gender gap report is an index on ‘gender parity’ in 156 countries and is based on its graded evaluations on four broad benchmarks — women’s participation in politics and economy and their access to health and education in each of these countries.
According to the report, South Asia is the “second lowest performer on the index after the Middle East and North Africa, with 62.3 per cent of its overall gender gap closed. The progress has been too slow in the recent past, and this year, it has actually reversed. The projected time needed for this region to close gender gaps is now estimated at 195.4 years,” the report warns.
Globally, on the current trajectory, it will now take 135.6 years to close the gender gap worldwide, the Global Gender Gap Report -2021 by the World Economic Forum (WEF) states. India, the report suggests, is the “third worst performer in the region, having closed 62.5 per cent of its gap. Because of its large population, India’s performance has a substantial impact on the region’s overall performance. Home to 0.65 billion women, India has widened the gender gap from almost 66.8 per cent one year ago, to 62.5 per cent this year,” the report noted.
‘Only 22.3% women active in labour market’
“Only 22.3 per cent of women in India are active in the labour market, 29.2 per cent of women hold technical roles and 14.6 per cent Indian women hold senior roles. The income of an average Indian woman is below 20.7 per cent of an average Indian man and the share of women ministers has decreased from 23.1 per cent to 9.1 per cent,” the WEF India findings state.
Bangladesh has been ranked as the “best performer” in South Asia, which has closed 71.9 per cent of its gender gap. In comparison, Afghanistan has closed only 44.4 per cent of its gap.On the global front, the “preliminary evidence” in the report suggests that the “health emergency and the related economic downturn have impacted women more severely than men, partially re-opening gaps that had already been closed. The gender gap in political empowerment remains the largest of the four gaps tracked, with only 22 per cent closed till date.
At the current rate of progress, it will take 145.5 years to attain gender parity in politics,” the report says.The WEF report, when read along with the United Nations finding on the “shadow pandemic” on growing violence against women globally since the outbreak of Covid-19, spells disaster for women and a gender equitable society.