With an average remaining gender gap of 34.2%, 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 Sri Lanka are the top-ranked countries in the region, having closed just over 72% and nearly 68% 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. With the exception of Bangladesh and Pakistan at either end of South Asia’s regional table, gender parity outcomes are somewhat homogenous across the region.
The difference in gender gap size between the highest-ranked and lowest-ranked countries in the region is about 10% for the Educational Attainment subindex and about 4% for Health and Survival. 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. Variance in gender parity outcomes is somewhat higher within the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, and even more so for the Political Empowerment subindex; there is a 30% and a nearly 50% difference, respectively, in gender gap size between the region’s best- and worst-performing countries on these subindexes. Three of the seven countries have achieved a level of at least 60% gender parity on Economic Participation and Opportunity. On Political Empowerment, one country—Bangladesh—has reached a level of gender parity of more than 50%, while India has closed nearly 40% of its gender gap on this subindex. The region’s remaining countries have yet to achieve a gender parity level of at least 20%. It is worth noting that, from a low base, South Asia has made the fastest progress on closing its gender gap of any world region over the past decade.
In terms of year-on-year progress, out of the seven countries from the region covered by the Index this year, four countries have increased their overall scores compared to last year, while three have decreased their overall scores.
Bangladesh (48) consolidates its position as the region’s top performer and breaks into the global Index top 5 on the Political Empowerment subindex this year, recording progress on closing its political gender gap, despite a widening gender gap in terms of labour force participation. It is followed by Sri Lanka (100), which rises several ranks due to improvements on the Economic Participation and Opportunity subindex, specifically narrowing its gender gap on labour force participation. The country also moves closer toward fully closing its Educational Attainment gender gap, having already fully closed the gap on the Health and Survival subindex.
The next-ranked country is Nepal (105), which rises several spots due to narrowing its gender gap in labour force participation as well as greater representation of women in parliament. It also manages to keep its gender gap in enrolment in tertiary education fully closed for the second year running.
India (108) maintains a stable ranking this year but its gap is directionally larger this year with a 33% gap yet to be bridged. The country records improvements in wage equality for similar work, succeeds in fully closing its tertiary education gender gap for the first time, and keeps primary and secondary education gaps closed for the third year running. However, it continues to rank third-lowest in the world on Health and Survival, remaining the world’s least-improved country on this subindex over the past decade. In fact, India actually widens the gender gap on this subindex this year.
The Maldives (113) records a somewhat larger-than-before gender gap in labour force participation, due to updated data availability, which has led to a fall in ranking despite counterbalancing positive developments such as greater gender parity on estimated earned income and in the share of legislators, senior officials and managers. Bhutan (122), by contrast, experiences modest improvements in gender parity in healthy life expectancy but a slight reversal of its gender gap in labour force participation.
South Asia’s regional ranking is completed by Pakistan (148), which makes some good progress this year in wage equality as well as on the Educational Attainment subindex. However, this progress is insufficiently rapid to avoid the country being overtaken by a number of faster-improving countries at the lower end of the Index’s global rankings.