• India
  • Mar 16

Explainer - Gender inequality and ‘equanomics’

• India has shown progress in reducing gender inequality and ranks 108 out of 166 countries in the Gender Inequality Index 2022, released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

• India’s rank was 122 out of 191 countries with a score of 0.490 in the GII-2021.

• With a Gender Inequality Index value of 0.437 in 2022, India has shown progress and fares better than the global average of 0.462 and the South Asian average of 0.478.

• Denmark tops the Index with a score of 0.009, followed by Norway and Switzerland.

What is Gender Inequality Index?

• GII reflects gender-based disadvantage in three dimensions — reproductive health, empowerment and the labour market — for as many countries as data of reasonable quality allow.

• It shows the loss in potential human development due to inequality between female and male achievements in these dimensions. 

• It ranges from 0, where women and men fare equally, to 1, where one gender fares as poorly as possible in all measured dimensions.

• India’s performance in reproductive health is better than other countries in the medium human development group or South Asia. India’s adolescent birth rate in 2022 was 16.3 (births per 1,000 women ages 15-19), an improvement from 17.1 in 2021.

• However, India also has one of the largest gender gaps in the labour force participation rate—a 47.8 percentage points difference between women (28.3 per cent) and men (76.1 per cent). 

• The women and child development ministry said that over the last 10 years, India’s rank in the GII has become consistently better, indicating progressive improvement in achieving gender equality in the country. In 2014, this rank was 127, which has now become 108.

• The government’s initiatives have spanned across women’s lifecycle, including large-scale initiatives for girls’ education, skill development, entrepreneurship facilitation and safety in the workplace.

Impact of gender-based discrimination

• According to the World Bank, the world could achieve a ‘gender dividend’ of $172 trillion by closing gaps in lifetime labor earnings between women and men.

• If women earned the same as men over their lifetimes, the world could reap a significant ‘gender dividend’.

• The ‘gender dividend’ refers to the economic benefits that can be gained from achieving gender equality and empowering women in various aspects of society, including education, workforce participation, entrepreneurship, and leadership.

• The earnings gap is one part of a broader gender imbalance that has many causes and serious consequences for women’s wellbeing and for overall development progress. 

• Lifting women out of poverty is critical to achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 on gender equality and has multiplier effects for all the 17 Goals.

• Gender-based discrimination is the most widespread violation of human rights, limiting choices for individuals and development prospects for nations and the whole world. And in many countries, conflict and crisis are threatening to reverse previous gains in gender equality.

• Climate change could push 158.3 million more women and girls into poverty, while armed conflicts, disasters and other crises steer resources away from social safety nets that are crucial to help women and communities to stay afloat during tough times. 

• Women also shoulder a far greater burden of unpaid care and domestic work. An International Labour Organisation (ILO) report found that about 16.4 billion hours were spent on unpaid care work every day in the 64 countries studied. That’s like two billion people working a full eight-hour day – without pay. And more than three quarters of this work is performed by women.

• Women still face lower pay and higher unemployment rates in formal sectors, while millions support their families in informal jobs, with little security.

• To make matters worse, many countries are choosing policies that make women poorer. Nearly 2.4 billion working-age women live in places that do not guarantee them the same rights as their male co-workers.

What is equanomics?

• ‘Equanomics’ means transforming economies to work for gender equality and for lifting women and their communities out of poverty.

• The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is championing ‘Equanomics’, a flagship initiative to dismantle economic structures that generate and perpetuate gender inequality. 

• Building expertise and supporting partners that want to transform their economies to work better for everyone, Equanomics envisions a new path and is helping countries take it by building expertise and supporting partners that want to transform their economies to work better for everyone.

Dismantle systems that sustain gender inequality

• During the COVID-19 pandemic, governments introduced a variety of policies addressing the impacts on women in particular. From support to unpaid care workers, to institutionalising flexible working arrangements, to investing in gender-based violence prevention and response, these measures show that solutions for a gender-equal world are not only possible, they exist.

• UNDP is prioritising policy shifts and strengthening institutions to advance equality through a series of initiatives, including Equanomics. 

The Equanomics flagship emphasizes three interlinked avenues for action:

i) Expanding care systems and services: To help increase economic security and bridge gaps for women, particularly female-headed households, informal workers, migrant workers and others who are persistently on the edges of national economies. In 2022, as many as 16 countries expanded their national care systems and local services with support from UNDP.

ii) Developing gender-responsive policies: Including reforming tax systems and financing equality, by integrating gender equality priorities throughout the budget process. The Gender Equality Seal for Public Institutions is working with ministries of finance and tax authorities in 30 countries and across 23 sectors, to recognise and support public institutions that are committed to gender equality and women’s empowerment.

iii) Generating data and evidence to influence policy: To build a stronger understanding of the discrimination embedded in current economies and policies, as well as the social biases and norms that are preventing progress. For example, the Gender Social Media Monitoring Tool monitors in real time existing hate speech and biases in social media platforms.

Manorama Yearbook app is now available on Google Play Store and iOS App Store