India has closed 67 per cent of its gender gap, less than many of its neighbours like Bangladesh ranked 47 and China placed at 100, the report said. The WEF measures the gap across four pillars -- health, education, the workplace and political representation.
The report attributed India's decline in position to a widening of gender gap in political empowerment as well as healthy life expectancy and literacy.
"A decade of slow but steady progress on improving parity between the sexes came to a halt in 2017, with the global gender gap widening for the first time since the WEF's Global Gender Gap Report came out in 2006," it said.
The findings in this year's report, published today, showed that an overall 68 per cent of the global gender gap has been closed. This is a slight deterioration from 2016 when the gap closed was 68.3 per cent. At the current rate of progress, the global gender gap will take 100 years to bridge, compared to 83 last year. The case is worse in terms of workplace gender divide, which the report estimates will take 217 years to close.
On a positive note, however, a number of countries are bucking the dismal global trend as over one-half of all 144 countries measured this year have seen their score improve in the past 12 months, the report said.
At the top of the Global Gender Gap Index is Iceland. The country has closed nearly 88 per cent of its gap. It has been the world's most gender-equal country for nine years. Among the top 10 countries are Norway at second position followed by Finland at number three, Rwanda at 4, Sweden at 5, Nicaragua at 6, Slovenia at 7, Ireland at 8, New Zealand at 9 and the Philippines at 10.
"With more than 50 years having passed since the inauguration of the nation's first female Prime Minister in 1966, maintaining its global top 20 ranking on the political empowerment sub-index will require India to make progress on this dimension with a new generation of female political leadership," the report said.
Moreover, the scale of India's gender gap in women's share among legislators, senior officials and managers as well as professional and technical workers highlights that continued efforts will be needed to achieve parity in economic opportunity and participation.
In India, the workplace gender gap is reinforced by extremely low participation of women in the economy (136 out of the total 144 countries covered) and low wages for those who work (136th ranking for estimated earned income), the WEF said, adding that "on average, 66 per cent of women's work in India is unpaid, compared to 12 per cent of men's".
Even as India succeeded in closing its primary and secondary education enrolment gender gaps for the second year running and for the first time has nearly closed its tertiary education gender gap, it continues to rank fourth-lowest in the world on health and survival, remaining the world's least-improved country on this sub-index over the past decade, the WEF stated.
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