With an average remaining gender gap of 34%, South Asia is the second-lowest scoring region on this year’s Global Gender Gap Index, ahead of the Middle East and North Africa and behind Sub-Saharan Africa. Bangladesh and the Maldives are the top-ranked countries in the region, having closed just under 72% and 67% of their overall gender gap, respectively, while the lowest-ranked countries are Bhutan and Pakistan, having closed just under 64% and 55% of their overall gender gap, respectively. Only one country in the region, Maldives, has fully closed its Educational Attainment gender gap; and only one country, Sri Lanka, has fully closed its Health and Survival gender gap. However, the region is also home to Nepal, one of the top five climbers over the past decade on the overall Index and on the Educational Attainment subindex. From a low base, South Asia has made the fastest progress on closing its gender gap of any world region.
Of the seven countries from the region included in the Index this year, three countries have increased their overall score compared to last year, while four have seen their scores decrease.
Bangladesh (47) further consolidates its position as the region’s top performer and climbs several spots this year, recording progress across all dimensions of the Economic Opportunity and Participation subindex. Specifically, the country has improved gender parity for legislator, senior official and manager as well as professional and technical roles, in addition to estimated earned income and wage equality for similar work—despite a slight widening of its healthy life expectancy gender gap. The Maldives (106) also records a narrowing of its gender gap, with progress evident, in particular, on estimated earned income and across the Political Empowerment subindex. It has also fully closed its Educational Attainment gender gap for the first time since 2013.
India (108) experiences a decline in its overall Global Gender Gap Index ranking, largely attributable to a widening of its gender gaps in Political Empowerment as well as in healthy life expectancy and basic literacy. In addition, newly available data reveals the scale of India’s gender gap in women’s share among legislators, senior officials and managers, as well as professional and technical workers for the first time in recent years, highlighting that continued efforts will be needed to achieve parity in Economic Opportunity and Participation. More positively, India succeeds in fully closing its primary and secondary education enrolment gender gaps for the second year running, and, for the first time has nearly closed its tertiary education gender gap. However, it continues to rank fourth-lowest in the world on Health and Survival, remaining the world’s least-improved country on this subindex over the past decade. Finally, with more than 50 years having passed since the inauguration of the nation’s first female prime minister in 1966, maintaining its global top 20 ranking on the Political Empowerment subindex will require India to make progress on this dimension with a new generation of female political leadership.
The next-ranked countries are Sri Lanka (109)—which has widened its gender gap in wage equality for similar work despite a modest increase in parity in estimated earned income—and Nepal (111), which closes its gender gap on enrolment in tertiary education for the first time and marks notable improvements in women’s share of estimated earned income, counter-balancing a widening of its gender gap for women in ministerial positions. Bhutan (124) sees a widening gender gap across professional and technical workers, estimated earned income, healthy life expectancy and basic literacy, partly offset by a notable increase in parity for legislators, senior officials and managers. Its Political Empowerment scores remain the same as last year. Pakistan (143) remains the region’s lowest-ranked country and second-to-last ranked overall. It records some progress on closing the basic literacy gender gap, and on women’s labour force participation, but this is largely outweighed by reversals on estimated earned income and a significant re-opening of the country’s enrolment in tertiary education gender gap according to the latest data.