Santosh Kumar Mohapatra
ender equality is more than a moral imperative or a “women’s issue” and drives a better working world. Ensuring the full development and appropriate deployment of half the world’s total talent pool has a vast repercussion on growth, competitiveness and future-readiness of economies and businesses worldwide.
According to the McKinsey Global Institute, if women fully participated in formal economic activity, it would add $12 trillion to the world’s coffers. Similarly, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch report, advancing women’s equality could boost global GDP by 31 percent or $28 trillion by 2025, the size of the US and China GDP combined.
Hence, achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls by 2030 is a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of United Nations. But a gender balanced world remains an illusion. According to recent report of World Bank Women around the world are granted only three quarters of the legal rights enjoyed by men, often preventing them from getting jobs or opening businesses. Around 2.7 billion women are still legally barred from having the same choice of jobs as men.
Women globally also do much more unpaid domestic and care work than men. On average women across the world are paid just 63 per cent of what men earn. There is not a single country where women are paid as much as men. According to the report, the world has closed 68 per cent of its gender gap and at the current rate of change; it will take 108 years to close the overall gender gap and 202 years to bring about parity in the workplace. These challenges are more evident in India.
The alarming news is that India’s gender gap has stagnated and the country is ranked 108th in Global Gender Gap Index 2018, same as it was ranked in 2017. Though India maintained a stable ranking this year, its gap is directionally larger, with a 33 per cent gap yet to be bridged. However, India had slipped 21 places in Global Gender Gap index to 108 in previous years.
India’s worst performance on the gender scale is with regards to female participation in labour market, which is 27.2 per cent compared with 78.8 per cent for men even as globally 49 per cent women are part of the labour force compared with 75 per cent men. According to the Deloitte report titled “Empowering Women and Girls in India for the Fourth Industrial Revolution”, 95 per cent or 195 million women are employed in the unorganised sector or are in unpaid work. During 2008-2018, gender wage-gap has almost doubled from Rs 38 to Rs 76 in India. It is worrying that female workers are still penalised for having children and looking after them.
Women’s empowerment is key to a gender-balanced world. But overall; women’s share of parliamentary seats remains low at 24.1 per cent, although it varies across regions. In India, women remain significantly less politically, economically and socially empowered than men. According to the United Nations and Inter-Parliamentary Union report of 2018, India ranked 153, a slip from 148 among 193 countries in 2017. In India, the representation of women in the Lok sabha is 11.8 per cent and in Rajya sabha is 11.4 per cent, which is less than the half the global average of 24.1 per cent.
Hence, in the present scenario, existing interventions will not suffice to achieve a planet 50-50 by 2030. Collective action and shared responsibility to drive gender-balanced world is vital. Innovative approaches that disrupt “business as usual” are central to removing structural barriers and ensuring that no woman or girl is left behind. Accelerating gender balance also warrants gender-balanced government, gender-balanced media coverage, a gender-balance of employees, more gender-balance in wealth and gender-balanced sports coverage.
Providing women and girls with equal access to education, healthcare, decent work and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will stimulate sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large. Planners should know that if half the global population cannot fulfil their human potential, the world’s progress, prosperity will falter.
The author is an Odisha-based economist. e-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.