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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Great Indian Gender Divide - Neeta Lal

With a booming economy, an exponentially growing Information Technology (IT) sector and surging economic prosperity amongst its 300 million-plus middle class, India seems poised for superpower status.

However, beneath the spectacular "India Shining" story lurks an area of darkness -- the unequal status of its women, who constitute more than half its demographic. The latest official document to highlight this inequity is the 2007 Gender-Gap Index Report by the World Economic Forum (WEF); it places India at the bottom of the global pyramid.

Of 128 countries evaluated by the WEF, India ranks way down at 114th, followed, among others, by Yemen, Chad, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. China, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Botswana are all positioned better than India. In terms of economic participation and opportunity, India, with its surging economy, has done even worse than last year -- it is now ranked at the 122nd position. Meanwhile, its overall rank has slipped from 102nd to 114th this year. In other words, Indian women are even more marginalized than they were a year ago.

It's interesting to analyze the WEF report: While India scores an overall 59.4 percent on gender equality, it only manages an abysmal 39.8 percent on economic participation and opportunity. In terms of wage equality, India ranks 59th, with 67 percent gender equality; shockingly, given India's high tech boom, for professional and technical workers, it comes in at 97th (down in the 27th percentile). While India has a 36 percent female participation in the overall labor force, for professional and technical workers the figure is an abysmal 21 percent. [for more click on the heading]


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