gender inequality

Posted: December 9, 2013 in Current affairs

India’s abysmal gender inequality statistics seem to have taken a turn for the worse. New data shows the country’s Gender Inequality Index (GII) worsened between 2008 and 2011, and India now ranks 129 out of 146 countries on the GII, better only than Afghanistan in south Asia.

On the Human Development Index (HDI), India ranks 134 out of 187 countries. When inequality is factored in, it experiences a 30% drop in its human development values, ranking 129 out of 146 nations.

The GII, introduced by the UN Development Programme last year, measures female disadvantage in three areas: reproductive health as measured by the maternal mortality ratio and the adolescent fertility rate, empowerment measured by seats in Parliament and proportion with at least secondary education, and the labour force participation rate.

India’s decline is accounted for by a fall in its female labour force participation rate and a worsening of its adolescent fertility rate. Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh, who helped release the 2011 UNDP Human Development Report in New Delhi on Wednesday, claimed that a decline in female labour force participation could indicate improved status for women or better education opportunities. However, the UNDP report shows that the proportion of women with at least secondary education is still just half that of men. Globally, richer countries with higher human development have higher female labour force participation too.

Within India’s neighbourhood, Sri Lanka has overtaken China on human development and with an HDI of 0.691, is now within touching distance of the “high human development” category. Sri Lanka performs particularly well on gender equality indicators; its maternal mortality ratio is the same as Russia’s.

“Economic growth is a necessary but not sufficient condition for human development. Recent data shows that high growth states like Gujarat have worse human development measures, particularly on malnutrition, than many of the northern states,” Ramesh said. He went on to praise the role of non-government players, including Anna Hazare, in bringing about a change in sanitation.

The 2011 report focuses on sustainability and the impact of environmental degradation on the poor. By 2050, the average HDI could drop by 12% in south Asia due to the effects of global warming on agricultural production, access to clean water and pollution, the report says.

While reiterating his stance that the “real drivers of unsustainability are the developed countries, worst of all the US, which won’t even engage with this debate”, Ramesh added that just as consumption-heavy lifestyles in the industrialized world affected livelihoods in the developing world, “lifestyles within India also affect the livelihoods of the poor within India”.


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