Pakistan ranked 153rd in Global Gender Gap Index of 156 countries

Pakistan among the four worst performing countries as far as gender parity is concerned

According to the ‘Global Gender Gap Report 2021’ released by the World Economic Forum (WEF), Pakistan has been ranked 153rd in the index of 156 countries. Pakistan continues to show dismal performance on gender parity.

Pakistan has made some progress on legislation to protect and empower women in recent years, but ground reality hasn’t changed much over the years. The women still faces social, economic and political discrimination. The women have fewer opportunities in education, health and economic fields.

A focus on women empowerment in 2021 is critical to the country’s socio-economic growth. The hope remains that Pakistan, through dedicated effort, will see a change for the better in women’s safety and gender equality measures.   

The report found that Pakistan's gender gap had widened by 0.7 percentage points, to 55.6 per cent, making it one of the worst countries for gender parity. Only three countries Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan have showed worst performance on gender parity.    

The scorecard for the country places Pakistan at 152 in economic participation and opportunity, 144 in educational attainment, 153 in health and survival, and 98 in political empowerment.

In the South Asian region, Pakistan ranked seventh among eight countries, Afghanistan being the lowest. In its overall observation, the report commented that "progress has stagnated", observing that the estimated time to close the gender gap has now increased to 136.5 years. The country closed just 31.6pc of its gender gap in economic participation and opportunity. It also pointed out that the Covid-19 pandemic may have widened the existing disparities.

Pakistan featured among the bottom 10 countries in two of the four sub-indexes — economic participation and opportunity and health and survival — according to the report.

Pakistan's rankings have worsened over time, with data collected showing that in 2006, the country ranked 112 in economic participation and opportunity, 110 in education attainment, 112 in health and survival, and 37 in political empowerment.

"Few women participate in the labour force (22.6%) and even fewer are in managerial positions (4.9%). This means that only 26.7% and 5.2%, respectively, of these gaps have been closed so far, translating into very large income disparities between women and men: on average, a Pakistani woman's income is 16.3% of a man's," the report stated.

However, improvement has been seen with more women taking on professional and technical roles — 25.3%, up from 23.4% in the previous edition of the index. It pointed out that women do not have equal access to justice, ownership of land, and non-financial assets or inheritance rights.

When it comes to education, gender gaps as large as 13% or more exist across all levels. According to the report, "these gaps are the widest at lower education levels (84.1% primary enrolment gap closed) and are somewhat narrower for higher education levels (84.7% gap closed in secondary enrolment and 87.1% closed in tertiary enrolment).

"Further, only 46.5% of women are literate, 61.6% attend primary school, 34.2% attend high school and 8.3% are enrolled in tertiary education courses."

Pakistan has closed 94.4% of its health and survival gender gap, the report stated, adding that the gap on this sub-index was negatively impacted by wide sex ratio at birth (92%) due to gender-based sex-selective practices. Almost 85% of women have suffered intimate partner violence, it further said.

Pakistan's rank is relatively higher for political empowerment, the report said, observing however that only 15.4% of this gap has been closed to date. "With just 4.7 years (in the last 50) with a woman as head of state, Pakistan is one of the top 33 countries in the world on this indicator. However, women's representation among parliamentarians (20.2%) and ministers (10.7%) remains low."

The South Asian region is the second-lowest performer on the index, after Middle East and North Africa, with 62.3% of its overall gender gap closed. Progress has been too slow in the recent past, and this year has actually reversed, the report said.

"Within the region, a wide gulf separates the best-performing country, Bangladesh, which has closed 71.9% of its gender gap so far, from Afghanistan, which has only closed 44.4pc of its gap. India is the third-worst performer in the region, having closed 62.5% of its gap.

"Only Bhutan and Nepal have demonstrated small but positive progress towards gender parity this year, while all other countries in this region have registered either slightly reduced or stagnant performances," the report stated.

According to the recent World Bank report, a female child born in Pakistan today has 59 per cent fewer chances of reaching her full potential. The number is the lowest amongst all countries in the region, and most others in lower-income groups. If the HCI measures are believed, Pakistan is wasting nearly 60 per cent of its human potential.

                                         Rukhsana Manzoor Deputy Editor

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