Data card

How the other half lives

Print edition : November 29, 2013

At a garment factory in Chennai. Photo: K_Pichumani

Mediocre access to health, education and job opportunities but significant political empowerment marks the pattern of women's lives in the subcontinent.

The fifth annual gender gap index of the World Economic Form (WEF) finds India occupying the 101st position among 136 countries, way behind Bangladesh at 75 though ahead of Pakistan at 135.

The index bases its rankings on its findings regarding how women fare in four areas – health, access to education, economic participation and political engagement. In each of these categories, too, every nation is accorded a ranking, apart from the overall one. India gets an unenviable one of 124 in Economic Participation and Opportunity, 120 in Educational Attainment, a worrying 135 in Health and Survival, and a rather remarkable 9 in Political Empowerment. In comparison, Bangladesh has 121 in Economic Participation and Opportunity, 115 in Educational Attainment, 124 in Health and Survival and 7 in Political Empowerment. Pakistan, which in its overall ranking is ahead only of Yemen, has 135 in Economic Participation and Opportunity, 129 in Educational Attainment, 124 in Health and Survival and 64 in Political Empowerment.

Iceland tops the ranking chart. Not surprisingly, the Scandinavian nations predominate among the top 10 positions. But there are a few surprises, too, with the Philippines (5), Nicaragua (10) and Cuba (15) far outstripping Britain (18) and the U.S. (23).

From a regional perspective, the report shows North America as having closed 74 per cent of its gender gap. The Middle East (West Asia) and North Africa have closed about 59 per cent of their gender gap. Asia and the Pacific, despite poor showings by nations with respect to women’s access to health and education, lead the subindexes for women’s political empowerment.

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