ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s gender gap has widened as it ranked 153rd among 156 countries assessed for the global gender gap index according to a World Economic Forum (WEF) report published on Wednesday.

The Global Gender Gap Report 2021 mirrored Pakistan’s dismal performance as its gender gap widened by 0.7 percentage to 55.6pc, faring better than only Afghanistan in the South Asian region and Yemen and Iraq in the rest of the world.

The situation was not as poor as in the year 2006 when the country was on 112th position in the world though last year it ranked 151st.

The WEF report in its overall observation states: “Another generation of women will have to wait for gender parity, as the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic continues to be felt, closing the global gender gap has increased by a generation from 99.5 years to 135.6 years.”

Ranked 153rd on WEF’s index, country loses 41 spots in 15 years

In the four sub-indexes, Pakistan is placed at 152 in economic participation and opportunity gap, 144 in educational attainment gap, 153 in health and survival and 98 in political empowerment gap. While closing 31.6pc of its economic participation and opportunity gap, Pakistan featured among the 10 countries with the largest gap in this category. Also, despite closing 94.4pc gender gap in health and survival, Pakistan remains among the poor performing countries due to persisting gender selective practices at birth and intimate partner violence.

The 2006 data showed Pakistan ranked 112 in economic participation and opportunity; 110 in education attainment; 112 in health and survival; and 37 in political empowerment.

While the country has closed 81.1pc educational attainment gap in general, only 46.5pc Pakistani women are literate. Just 61.6pc girls in the country attend primary school, 34.2pc attend high school and 8.3pc are enrolled in tertiary education courses.

Pakistan’s rank is relatively higher for political empowerment, yet only 15.4pc of this gap has been closed to date. With just 4.7 years (in the last 50) having 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 (20.2pc) and ministers (10.7pc) remains low.

Few women participate in the labour force (22.6pc) and even fewer are in managerial positions (4.9pc). This means that only 26.7pc and 5.2pc, 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 16.3pc of a man’s.

Further, women do not have equal access to justice, ownership of land and non-financial assets or inheritance rights.

On a positive note, there are signs of improvement in the share of women in professional and technical roles (25.3pc, up from 23.4pc in the previous edition of the index).

Following the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia is the second-lowest performer on the index, with 62.3pc of its overall gender gap closed. In addition, progress has been too slow in the recent past, and this year has actually reversed. A decline of approximately three percentage points has resulted in a significant delay in the projected time needed for this region to close gender gaps, now estimated at 195.4 years.

Within the South Asia region, a wide gulf separates the best-performing Bangladesh that has closed 71.9pc of its gender gap so far from Afghanistan that has only closed 44.4pc of its gap. India is the third-worst performer in the region having closed 62.5pc of its gap, while Pakistan closed 55.6pc gender gap. Only Bhutan and Nepal have demonstrated small but positive progress towards gender parity this year, as all other countries in this region have registered either slightly reduced or stagnant performances.

The five most improved countries in the overall index in 2021 are Lithuania, Serbia, Timor-Leste, Togo and the United Arab Emirates, having narrowed their gender gaps by at least 4.4 percentage points or more.

Afghanistan (156th), Guyana (53rd) and Niger (138th) have been assessed this year for the first time for the gender-gap ranking.

Western Europe continues to be the best-performing region, with 77.6pc of its overall gender gap now closed. Six of the top 10 countries in the index are from this region. Similarly, North America region comprising Canada and the United States closed 76.4pc of its gender gap.

Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2021

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