It will take 170 years to fill economic, health gender gaps: Report

New Delhi, Oct 26 (IANS) The most challenging gaps in terms of gender equality in the world remain in the economic and health spheres and, at current rates, it may take 170 years to cover the divide, warns the Global Gender Gap index, released by World Economic Forum (WEF) on Wednesday.

The report also blamed India and China in particular for the gap in health care. India, which has the 87th position in the gender gap index otherwise, ranks 142nd — the third last — in terms of health and survival. China stands last in this category at 144th rank.

“…The most challenging gender gaps remain in the economic sphere and in health. At the current rate of change, and given the widening economic gender gap since last year, it will not be closed for another 170 years,” the report said.

The report also said that the economic gender gap this year has reverted back to where it stood in 2008, after a peak in 2013.

Progress towards parity in the key economic pillar of gender has slowed dramatically with the gap — which stands at 59 per cent — now larger than at any point since 2008.

Stagnant labour force participation is another challenge, with the global average for women being at 54 per cent, compared to 81 per cent for men.

The time to close the health gender gap, which has been called one of the biggest challenges, remains undefined, said the report.

“The time to close the health gender gap remains undefined. Formally the smallest gap, it has oscillated in size with a general downward trend. Today the gap is larger than it stood in 2006, in part due to specific issues in select countries, in particular China and India,” said the report.

The education-specific gender gap could, meanwhile, be reduced to parity within the next 10 years.

At present, the widest gender gap — in the political dimension — is also the one exhibiting the most progress — narrowing by nine per cent since 2006, the year the report first came out.

“On current trends, it could be closed within 82 years,” the report said.

The report also observed that “ensuring the healthy development and appropriate use of half of the world’s total talent pool has a vast bearing on the growth, competitiveness and future readiness of economies and businesses worldwide.”

“Talent and technology together will determine how the Fourth Industrial Revolution can be harnessed to deliver sustainable economic growth and innumerable benefits to society,” the preface of the report said.

“Yet, if half of the world’s talent is not integrated — as both beneficiary and shaper — into the transformations underway, we will compromise innovation and risk a rise in inequality,” it added.

“This urgency is at the core of a fresh call to action to accelerate progress towards gender equality, adding to the well-established economic case for gender equality. Moreover, there is a fundamental moral case for empowering women: women represent one-half of the global population and it is self-evident that they must have equal access to health, education, earning power and political representation,” it said.

As per the report, the top 10 countries in covering the gender gap are Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Rwanda, Ireland, the Philippines, Slovenia, New Zealand and Nicaragua.