The gender index assesses countries across health, education, economic opportunities and political empowerment

Ranking: Although Bhutan has moved two places up in the recently released Global Gender Gap Report (GGGR) 2015, its gender-based disparities are one of the worst in South Asia.

Bhutan is ranked 118, only ahead of Pakistan in the region, which is ranked 144 out of 145 countries.

The index assesses the countries across four pillars – health, education, economic opportunities and political empowerment.

Bhutan made improvement in educational attainment, which has been boosted by an enrolment in tertiary education. Girls make up 44 percent of the total enrolment at the tertiary level in Bhutan.

The country’s score in heath and survival, and political empowerment, however, remained the same.

Among the 145 countries, Bhutan stands at 121 in education, two places up from 123 last year. However, Bhutan has slipped two places down in politics – 130 in 2014 to 132 in 2015 ranking.

There are only six female parliamentarians in the 72-member Parliament – four in the National Assembly and two in the national Council. In the local government, 93 percent of the elected leaders are male and only 7 percent female.

Chairperson of the Parliament’s Women, Children and Youth Committee, Karma Dorji, said no issue related to gender was referred to the committee by any agency. He said that if there are women-related issues that can be addressed through legislation, the committee will make recommendations in the Parliament.

“For instance, we have studied the six-month maternity leave proposed by the Royal Civil Service Commission,” he said. “The government has taken the proposal positively,” he said.

Bhutan’s rank this year is 25 places below where it stood two years back in 2013, when the country was placed at 93th position. The gender index had fallen to 120th position in 2014 from 93th position in 2013.

In the SAARC region, Bangladesh is ranked highest at 64, Sri Lanka 84, India 108, Nepal 110, Maldives 113.

The World Economic Forum first introduced the index in 2006 as a framework for capturing the magnitude of gender-based disparities and tracking their progress.

While no country has entirely eliminated the gender gap, Iceland tops the index for the seventh consecutive year. Its records are boosted by high level of female political representation (41 percent), generous paternity leave policies and world-class opportunities for women to become business leaders.

According to the report, women are not likely to reach economic equality until 2133 and the gap between the economic opportunities available to men and women has narrowed by 3 percent in the last decade. “At that rate, women will not achieve financial parity for another 118 years.”

Officially, there is no gender divide in Bhutan as women are constitutionally guaranteed equal rights, but gender disparities remain in various forms, according to reports. For example,  among the working-age population, six percent of Bhutanese women, compared with 12 percent of men, contribute to a pension scheme. This is according to a UN report on progress of the world’s women 2015-16.

The index benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, political, education and health criteria, and provides country ranking for effective comparisons across regions and income groups. The ranking is designed to create greater awareness among a global audience of the challenges posed by gender gaps and the opportunities created by reducing them.

The most important determinant of a country’s competitiveness is its human talent – the skills and productivity of its workforce. Similarly, an organisation’s performance is determined by the human capital that it possesses and its ability to use this resource efficiently.

Ensuring healthy development and appropriate use of half of the world’s available talent pool has a vast bearing on how competitive a country may become or how efficient it can be.

MB Subba