Representational image. COURTESY: REUTERS

NORTHAMPTON: Statistics from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) are quite revealing, which state that closing the gender gap in workforce could add a staggering $28 trillion to the global gross domestic product (GDP).

Both advanced and developing economies stand to gain if women participate in the labour force at the same rate as men, work the same number of hours as men and are employed at the same levels as men across sectors.

Huge gender gaps exist between men and women in educational attainment, pay and income, labour market activity rates and provision of unpaid work and distribution of time between men and women. Lower rates of gender parity increase the risk of women being subject to poverty and social exclusion.

Moreover, research has shown that there is a strong correlation between a country’s gender gap and its economic performance. Despite known economic benefits of women participation in the workforce, significant legal, structural and cultural obstacles persist. This is also the case with Pakistan.

Gender parity in Pakistan

Data from Pakistan’s census report reveals that Pakistan is currently the sixth most populous nation in the world with a share of about 2.6% in global population.

Dividing population on the basis of gender shows that about 49.2% of the population is female. With such a large proportion being female, what is the state of women in the country?

Recently released Global Gender Gap report of the World Economic Forum has exhibited some startling statistics. The report benchmarks 149 countries on their progress towards gender parity across four thematic dimensions: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. In addition, this year’s edition studies skills gender gaps related to artificial intelligence (AI).

Globally, countries have performed the worst in terms of political empowerment with a 77% gap between men and women. Economic participation and opportunity gap is the second largest standing at 49.1%.

Pakistan, in particular, has performed poorly, being among the bottom five on all these dimensions, except political empowerment where it has been ranked 97. Due to this, it is deeply troubling to report that it is ranked the second worst country in terms of gender equality, ahead of only war-ravaged Yemen.

Pakistan’s performance has not just been poor on a global scale but even in comparison with the region. It is ranked at the very bottom in South Asia, being even lower than Bhutan. Bangladesh leads the South Asian region in terms of gender parity. The country has filled the gender gap mainly by performing outstandingly on one particular indicator: political empowerment.

Road ahead

Consider the following fact: By 2025, if women’s participation in Pakistan is fully equal to men’s, there would be a whopping increase of 60% in GDP. This is equivalent to an overall gain of $251 billion or roughly $1,324 per person.

Aiming to reduce the gender gap should be an issue of national importance, considering that Pakistan has performed particularly poor on some of the fundamental indicators of human wellbeing – health and survival, and educational attainment.

Due to an abysmal state of affairs on these two indicators, there remain very limited opportunities for women to participate in economic activities.

Developing countries that are ranked poorly in terms of gender parity, especially Pakistan, must find solutions to reduce inequalities between the genders in their own respective economic, political and cultural contexts. It is imperative that countries that want to remain competitive and inclusive in a world, which has entered the fourth age of globalisation, has to strive to make gender parity a crucial aspect of their overall human development strategy.