Pakistan’s gender disparity crisis

Advancing gender parity would also mean that gender-sensitive policies are adopted in the workplace

Rida Hameed July 25, 2022

Globally, the past few years have been distraught with multiple crises. Coupled with the ongoing Covid pandemic, the ever-worsening economic and environmental conditions have only added to the list of problems the world has had to deal with recently. Not only is this hindering the global progress being made at various fronts, it also possesses the risk of reversing the significant advances made earlier. In the case of gender equality, a significant threat is posed to the immense progress made in the past, which may translate into bigger problems for generations to come.

Measuring economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment, the Global Gender Gap Index – first estimated back in 2006 – captures the extent of gender parity prevalent in 146 countries. According to the Global Gender Gap report released by the World Economic Forum, in the year 2022, the prevalent gender gap has been closed by 68.1%, an improvement from 2021’s gender parity score of 67.9%.

With this trajectory, it is expected that full parity would be achieved in 132 years. While most of the economies which have been able to close the gender gap are, as expected, Scandinavian and European – Iceland (90.8%), Finland (86%), Norway (84.5%), Sweden (82.2%), Ireland (80.4%) and Germany (80.1%) – what is surprising is that Sub Saharan African countries such as Rwanda (81.1%) and Namibia (80.7%) are also among the top 10 economies leading in closing the global gender gap.

Decomposing estimates on the regional level reveal substantial heterogeneity, with North America taking the lead amongst all regions by being successfully able to close 76.9% of its gender gap and South Asia being the worst ranked of all regions, having closed 62.3% of its gender gap in the year 2022. Within South Asia, Bangladesh and Nepal perform significantly well, with a score of 69% while Afghanistan performs the worst, having closed the gender gap by 43.5%. At its current rate of progress, it is expected that the gender gap present in South Asia would be closed in 197 years. This estimate is dismal at best because of which efforts to ensure gender parity must be adopted.

With a population of 107 million people, Pakistan ranks 145th on the Global Gender Gap Index, second last only to Afghanistan. In 2022, the country has been able to close 56.4% of its gender gap. Compared to the past years, this estimate, is by far, the highest level that the country has been able to achieve. The biggest improvement has been made in economic participation and opportunity, the score of which is 0.331, a slight improvement from 2021’s score of 0.316.

Within this sub-index, a positive variation was recorded both in wage equality as well as in estimated earned income. Similarly, in the sub-index of educational attainment, which is 0.825 for the year 2022, the scores for all levels of education improved as compared to those of 2021. The score for health and survival remained 0.944, the same as in 2021. Political empowerment improved only slightly, from 0.154 in 2021 to 0.156 in 2022.

Achieving gender parity is crucial to achieving national prosperity. For this, it is imperative that human capital is invested in and access to resources and opportunities is extended to both genders alike. Furthermore, a continuous assessment of the prevalent gender disparities is also critical to not only monitor the progress that has been so far made but also for policymakers to determine how both the public and private sectors can unite and collaborate to ensure that these gender gaps are effectively closed.

Advancing gender parity would also mean that gender-sensitive policies are adopted in the workplace and gender gaps in earnings are closed. Female participation in the labour force should be encouraged by the provision of flexible work arrangements and social safety nets that allow women to benefit from policies targeting childcare support. Furthermore, more women should be encouraged to advance to higher-skilled leadership and management roles. Only through the amalgamation of these steps would a more gender-equal recovery be made possible in a new post-pandemic world and in the bigger picture, a more equitable society created.

Rida Hameed

The writer is a graduate of the University of Warwick and is currently pursuing a PhD in Economics at the American University.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


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