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Women’s Lives in India are Getting Worse

Progress doesn’t always happen in a straight line.

The average woman in India has had a harder time just surviving in 2017, according to a report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF). This year, the country was ranked 108 out of 144 in the global gender gap report, even though it placed 87 in 2016.

The WEF’s gender report was created “in part to address the need for a consistent and comprehensive measure for gender equality that can track a country’s progress over time.” The report tracks the crucial components to society – health, education, economy, and politics – but it also tracks more unique factors. The first paragraph, for example, talks of the importance of talent to a country’s economy.

“Talent is one of the most essential factors for growth and competitiveness. To build future economies that are both dynamic and inclusive, we must ensure that everyone has equal opportunity. When women and girls are not integrated – as both beneficiary and shaper – the global community loses out on skills, ideas, and perspectives that are critical for addressing global challenges and harnessing new opportunities.”

In the second paragraph are the report’s findings, and for the first time since the WEF began measuring gender parity, progress toward equality has begun to reverse. This means that an average Indian woman’s life compared to a man’s in health, education, economics, and politics has decreased in equality within the past year.

A woman’s health and her ability to survive is one of the categories in which India places worst. The country also remains as the world’s least improved country in gender parity over the past decade. Women’s participation in labor is only 28 percent, while 66 percent of women’s work goes unpaid. Time spent cleaning and taking care of family members is almost always undervalued economically, even though these actions form the backbone of the nuclear family, and thus, the world’s average economy.

Incorporating the talent of women into an economy will be the future of successful economies, writes the WEF.

“As the world moves from capitalism into the era of talentism, competitiveness on a national and on a business level will be decided more than ever before by the innovative capacity of a country or a company. In this new context, the integration of women into the talent pool becomes a must.”

There are things India does well, of course. In political empowerment, the country took the 15th spot. While its women still hold about 20 percent less governmental jobs, the government has instituted reservations for seats in local governments, and many women participate in things most important to their own political empowerment, such as protesting.

Still, every country has room to improve.

“It is our hope,” says Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the WEF, “that this latest edition of the report will serve as a call to action to governments to accelerate gender equality through bolder policy-making, to businesses to prioritize gender equality as a critical economic and moral imperative and to all of us to become deeply conscious of the choices we make every day that impact gender equality globally.”

We can only hope that next year’s results will be better and that women’s conditions with gender equality improve in the years to come.

Featured Image by Aman Bhargava on Unsplash

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