Ignoring better half pulls down progress

Tax incentives, good infrastructure, clean politics and efficient bureaucracy are all known to improve the competitiveness of a nation to attract global investments or emerge as places to do business. So does the quality of human talent. And, India, being a beneficiary on that count as far as knowledge workers are concerned, should know that better. Essentially, it should mean that countries that give their women a better deal or strive to narrow the gender gap should have a lot going for them. After all, women account for half the world’s population — and half of the world’s potential talent base. 

The correlation between gender equality and competitiveness of the nations is strong despite all other factors that contribute to make a country an attractive business destination. As many as 13 of the top 25 nations that have narrowed the gender gap are also among the top 25 countries listed as most competitive by the World Economic Forum (WEF). Of course, there are exceptions: west Asian countries with huge gender gaps too figure in the top 25 on the WEF’s Global Competitiveness Index. But topping the list of nations with narrowest gender gap are, not surprisingly, the Nordic nations.

So how is the gender gap measured? Economic participation and opportunity, education, health and survival, and political empowerment are the broad measures used by the WEF to rank countries on the Global Gender Gap Index. The Nordic countries — Iceland, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Denmark — have done well on all these parameters. But no country has yet achieved gender equity, the report finds. The Nordic countries, with the exception of Denmark, have closed over 80% of the gender gap, the Global Gender Gap report notes.

The Nordic countries have done outstandingly well on several counts. They have achieved 99-100% literacy rates for both sexes. They display gender parity at primary and secondary levels of education. At the tertiary level, gender gap has been reversed and women make up the majority of the workforce. In Norway, Sweden and Iceland, 1.5 women for every man is enrolled in tertiary education. In Finland and Denmark, women make up majority of those in tertiary education. Women even outlive men by 3-4 healthy years.



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