India’s ranking drops a notch in World Bank study on gender equality laws

The World Bank study, takes into consideration eight indicators structured around the working life cycle of a woman -- mobility, workplace, pay, marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship, asset and pension

women drivers in Kerala, gender equality, government offices, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan
India scores high with a perfect 100 when it comes to not imposing constraints on a woman’s freedom of movement or mobility; not curtailing women’s decision to work, and regarding her rights to marriage. Pic: iStock

India’s overall score in gender equality in terms of legal reforms remains consistent for the past three years at 74.4 out of 100, according to an index compiled by the World Bank. The 2022 study, ‘Women, Business and the Law’, which covers 190 economies, has taken into account legal reforms in eight areas from October 2, 2020, to October 1, 2021.

The overall score for India is higher than the regional average observed across South Asia (63.7), but its overall ranking in gender equality in legal terms has dropped to 124th among 190 countries in 2022, against 123rd in 2021 and 117th in 2020. This is probably the outcome of India not effecting any legal reforms for the past three years, felt experts.

The ranking has been done on the basis of the laws and regulations applicable to Mumbai, the country’s financial capital. Eight indicators structured around the working life cycle of a woman has been taken into consideration — mobility, workplace, pay, marriage, parenthood, entrepreneurship, asset and pension. In total, 35 questions were scored across these eight indicators and the overall scores are calculated by taking the average of each indicator, with 100 representing the highest possible score.

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According to the World Bank study, India’s relative strengths are its perfect 100 score when it comes to not imposing any legal constraints on a woman’s freedom of movement or mobility, on not curtailing a women’s decisions to work, and regarding her rights on marriage.

India’s performance is lowest in “pay”

According to this World Bank study, India has not improved in the area of providing strong legal recourse in terms of pay parity in workplaces for women. In fact, India fares the worst in this indicator.

It scores a low 25 out of 100 in “pay”, with one of the constraints being that there is no  law mandating equal remuneration for work of equal value. India scores poorly at 40, when it comes to laws affecting women’s work after having children as well, which falls under the “parenthood” indicator.

Despite India’s various programmes to boost entrepreneurship, roadblocks seem to exist for women wanting to start and run a business. Under the ‘entrepreneurship’ category, the country scores 75 out of 100. It is the same score for laws affecting the size of a woman’s pension.

India could consider reforms to improve legal equality for women, said the report. For example, to improve on the Pay indicator, India may consider mandating equal remuneration for work of equal value, allowing women to work at night in the same way as men, and allowing women to work in an industrial job in the same way as men, it said.

According to a report in a business daily, an expert explained that India had failed to improve its score because it had not followed up on its reforms after they had been put into motion. On the other hand, Nepal, which was behind India, improved its position in 2021 and 2022 and currently stands at 88th position in the overall ranking.

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