Conflict Alerts # 356, 7 April 2021
In the news
On 30 March, the World Economic Forum released the Global Gender Gap Report 2021. The report provides a benchmark to measure gender parity across countries on four parameters: Political empowerment, economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, and health and survival. The report aims to track progress on relative gaps on the parameters mentioned above. The methodology used in the report has been constant since its first edition in 2006. On a scale of 0 to 100, the Global Gender Gap Index calculates scores that can be viewed as the distance to parity.
The key highlights of the report are as follows. First, the Global Gender Gap of 2021 stands at 67.7 per cent, with three new countries (Afghanistan, Guyana, and Niger). The gap has widened by 0.6 percentage points compared to the previous edition of 2019. Second, geographically, the Nordic countries continue to dominate the global top 10, with Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Sweden occupying the top five positions. Third, the Covid-19 pandemic has further widened the gender gap by a generation from 99.5 years to 135.6 years. Fourth, the gender gap globally in political empowerment remains the highest of the four gaps (only 22 per cent closed till date), followed by economic participation and opportunity (only 58 per cent closed); finally, gender gaps in educational attainment (95 per cent closed); and health and survival (96 per cent closed) are nearly closing. However, the report also points that the "last mile" of progress has been relatively slow.
Issues at large
First, the increased global attention on gender issues. From the landmark resolution of the United Nations Security Council on Women, Peace and Security in 2000 to the Global Gender Gap Index of 2021, they have all highlighted attaining gender parity to accelerate the global economy's growth. Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) also emphasize (Goal 5) on achieving gender equality. The world aims at a more gender-inclusive environment, but overall action is missing from the scene in many countries.
Second, regardless of global opinion on gender issues, less has been done to eradicate the gender gap. The report rightly identifies a significant decrease in the total progress made towards gender parity since 2006. Hence, on average, over the past 15 years, the gap has been reduced by only 0.24 percentage points per year. The total global gender gap is expected to close in 135.6 years, which is more than the reported years in 2019. Regionally, Western Europe has the narrowest gender gap (77.6 per cent so far) and is expected to improve even further this year. In contrast, South Asia (62.3 per cent) and the Middle East and North Africa have highest disparity (60.9 per cent).
Third, gender equality in isolation. Take Iceland, for example, which has topped the global gender gap index for more than a decade and has continued to do so. Progressive childcare policies, generous parental leave policies, and gender quotas in the political sphere are the backbone of its success. Therefore, countries looking at gender issues in isolation must revamp their policies and strategies to develop on the whole.
The report rightly identifies gender-positive recovery policies and practices that can tackle these potential challenges. First, the study proposes that more funding be poured into the care system and fair access to care leave for men and women. Second, policies and procedures should be constructive in combating gender-based discrimination in the workplace. Lastly, an unprecedented scenario like that of the pandemic must be met with strict equitable policies to create more sustainable societies and economies.