According to the recently launched Global Gender Gap report for 2017 by the World Economic Forum, Bhutan ranked 124th amongst 143 countries in global gender index. Although Bhutan ranked 93rd out of the 136 countries considered for the findings in 2013, Bhutan slipped three places down from last year, and the statics from the report for the earlier three years only indicate that the country’s global gender index has been plunging further down with each consecutive year.
The rankings are expected to create awareness in the world and bring changes in the respective countries to address the challenges posed by such gender gaps and to enable room for opportunities to reduce such disparities. The gap between the men and women were predominantly taken into consideration by examining four fundamental categories, which are Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival and Political Empowerment which gave the overview rankings for the global gender index. Within these four parameters, numbers of other positive interdependencies were also taken into account.
Economic Participation and Opportunity looked into the difference between men and women in the labour force participation, the remuneration gap and the advancement in the work gap. Bhutan has been ranked 4th in the category out of the 144 countries with female labour force participation at 71.4 percent and men at 73.5 percent.
The second benchmark was the Attainment of Education which took into account the gap between women’s and men’s current access to education through ratios of women to men in primary, secondary and tertiary-level education. A longer-term view of the country’s ability to educate women and men in equal numbers was captured through the ratio of the female literacy rate to the male literacy rate. The report showed alarming disparity in Education Attainment between men and women where Bhutan has been ranked 142nd out of the 144 countries in the category. The figures reveal that woman’s literacy rate stands at 22.1percent against men’s 45 percent.
Although the difference in the enrollment figures between male and female in the primary education is not much of a concern with female at 88.2 percent and men at 99.9 percent, the enrollment rates sees considerable gap between male and female for the secondary and tertiary education. For the secondary education enrollment, there are 38.1 percent female and 51.8 percent male and only 8 percent of female enrollment against 22.4 percent male for tertiary education.
In the Health and Survival category, Bhutan has been ranked 131st out of the 144 countries where length of maternity/paternity leave and wages paid during maternity/paternity leave were also taken into consideration.
And the fourth parameter which is the Political Empowerment, Bhutan ranks at 134th out of the 144 countries. Political Empowerment sees a major disparity between men and women in the country with only 8.5 percent of women representation in the parliament against 91.5 percent men. The records are also lowest in terms of women holding ministerial position at 10 percent with men at 90 percent and with zero female head of state from the last 50 years.
A proposal to reserve 30 percent of the 47 seats in a political party to women was proposed to be incorporated in the Election Act as pledged by government of the day; however, the act was not amended by the National Assembly to opt for other favorable means of empowering women in politics than through the quota system. The Works and Human Settlement minister Dorji Choden is the lone woman holding ministerial position in the country. She has also been elected as the vice-president of the People’s Democratic Party after securing 378 ‘yes votes’ from the 449 voters who took part in the party’s convention last week. Although, Foreign Minister Damchoe Dorji was the vice-president of the party earlier, he is said to have voluntarily stepped down to bring women in the forefront of decision making processes.
The Founder and Executive Chairman of World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab wrote, “The Index was developed in part to address the need for a consistent and comprehensive measure for gender equality that can track a country’s progress over time. The Index does not seek to set priorities for countries but, rather, to provide a comprehensive set of data and a clear method for tracking gaps on critical indicators so that countries may set priorities within their own economic, political and cultural contexts.”
According to the report, a variety of models and empirical studies have suggested that improving gender parity may result in significant economic dividends, which vary depending on the situation of different economies and the specific challenges faced.
Rankings by the region showed that Bhutan stands at bottom two compared to other South Asian countries, with Bangladesh in the top, followed by Maldives, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Pakistan at the last.
“Conversely, limiting women’s access to labour markets is costly, as poor female labour force participation hampers economic growth. As a region, East Asia and the Pacific reportedly loses between US$42 billion and US$47 billion annually due to women’s limited access to employment opportunities,” states the report.
Research by the World Bank demonstrates that similar restrictions have also imposed sizable costs throughout the Middle East and North Africa as well as Sub-Saharan Africa. The evident relationship between economic outcomes and gender parity and, in particular, the growing evidence of the positive effect of increasing gender parity on national income has also been proven through the findings of the report.