Gender gap vast in India, points out WEF

New York, May 19 | Updated: May 20 2005, 05:30am hrs
Despite governments efforts at empowering women and some of them occupying top positions in various sectors, India stood at a dismally low position of 53 among 58 countries for "gender gap," according to a survey by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

The survey showed that India was just above Korea, Jordan, Pakistan, Turkey and Egypt which occupied the last five positions in that order but below Bangladesh which got the 39th slot. Sri Lanka and Nepal were not included in the countries surveyed.

However, Indian women got high rating for political empowerment, where they were rated at 24th position, health and well-being (34) and economic opportunity (35).

What dragged them down was educational attainment where they got a low ranking -- 57th position -- and economic participation in which they occupied 54th position.

The survey took into consideration economic participation, economic opportunity, political empowerment, educational attainment and health and well-being.

The top five positions were occupied by Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Denmark and Finland followed by New Zealand, Canada, Britain, Germany and Australia. The United States occupied 17th position but got low rating in providing economic opportunity to women (46th).

Despite being among the richest countries, it scored the 42nd position for health and well-being of women. However, in education attainment it was placed at 8th position and for economic participation at 19th.

Overall, the survey gave India a score of 3.27 points on a scale of 1-7 where seven represented the top score.

Bangladesh, with just an overall score of 3.74, got the 39th position as it had done well in economic participation (18th rank), educational attainment and health (37) and well-being (37). Its ranking, however, dropped to 53 for economic opportunity and 42 for political empowerment.

China occupied 33rd position with an overall ranking of 4.01 points. Economic participation of women was its strongest point for which it occupied 9th position but for economic opportunity, its position dropped down to 23.

The ranking further went down for political empowerment (40) and educational attainment (46). But was slightly better for health and well-being at 36.

Out of the seven predominantly Muslim nations covered by the study, Bangladesh (39) and Malaysia (40) outperformed Indonesia (46), while Jordan (55), Pakistan (56), Turkey (57) and Egypt (58) occupied the bottom four ranks.

Traditional and deeply conservative attitudes regarding the role of women had made their integration into the world of public decision-making extremely difficult, the survey alleged.