The Global Gender Gap Report - 2008 is available from the World Economic Forum. India's ranked at 113 (out of 130) this year, whereas it stood at 114 (out of 128) last year. As in many things, rankings are for lazy people, they are susceptible to large scale changes if the underlying criteria get changed; actual scores in each individual factor can tell us a great deal more about where the serious gaps are.
Detailed (but not too detailed!) data for each of the 130 countries are available. Here's the report for India.
Here's the summary for India:
While India's performance in closing the gender gap is just about average (actually, slightly below average) in education and health, it is much worse in the economic sector. But look at the political side of the picture: India is doing significantly better than the average.
Under 'political empowerment,' in two of the three sub-indices for gender gap, India does very poorly indeed: women in (a) parliament and (b) ministerial positions (where the gendar gap index is just 0.10 and 0.11).
But on the third sub-index, 'years with female head of state in the last 50 years', India's score of 0.43 is far, far higher than the global average of 0.13! And its rank on this sub-index improves dramatically to No. 5!
Thank FSM for Indira Gandhi! This one-woman army has got India into the top 5, leaving the US and 90 other countries far, far behind at No. 40.
Given the 50 year time frame used for this sub-index, she will continue to 'serve' India for another 7 years!
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A quick look at the data reveals why rankings are a bad way to look at this stuff. If you take something like enrollment in primary education, India's score is 0.96 (which is the ratio of female to male enrollments of 87 and 90 percent). What this tells us is that we still have a long way to go in getting all our boys and girls into our schools: over 5 million boys and 6.5 million girls are 'missing' from our schools!
But here's the thing: this score of 0.96 gives India a rank of 110, and this rank wouldn't budge one way or the other if the same score of 0.96 came out of a different scenario: 96 percent enrollment for girls and 100 percent enrollment for boys!
In the economic realm, however, the picture for Indian women is truly grim: women earnings are only a third of that of men; their participation in the workforce is less than half that of men, and their share of professional and technical workforce is just 21 percent. As you move up the status scale, it gets far worse: their share is just 3 percent among legislators, senior officials and managers.
All of this yields a score of 0.4 for 'economic participation and opportunity', far lower than the global average of close to 0.6. India's rank in this category? 125.