Pakistan ranked second worst in the world in the Global Gender Gap Report 2022 issued by the World Economic Forum. As per the report, Pakistan stood 145th out of 146 countries, only better than Afghanistan. Iceland, Finland, Norway, New Zealand and Sweden are amongst the top five countries.

Saadia Zahidi, who wrote the preface of the Global Gender Gap Report 2022, the Managing Director of the World Economic Forum, was born in Pakistan. Ironically, the country she was born in was rated second worst in the Global Gender Gap. Not only in the world but also Pakistan occupied the same position in the South Asian Region. India lied at 135 while Bangladesh was at 71. Last year, Pakistan stood 153rd out of 156. The report is a reality check for those who deny the prevailing gender gap in the country.

World Economic Forum ranks countries across four main subindexes: Economic Participation and Opportunity, Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, and Political Empowerment. It issues separate rankings of subindexes for performance evaluation across all indicators. The report suggested that Pakistan's position in Economic Participation, Education, Health and Political Empowerment ranked 145th, 135th, 143rd and 95th, respectively. Signs of improvement observed in Economy, Education and Political Empowerment were insignificant compared to the world at large.

The inclusion of women in the workforce is quintessential for their empowerment. Their incorporation in the economic market adds to the GDP. It also helps them improve their lifestyles. Pakistan scored mere 0.331 in the Economic Participation and Opportunity domain. Women in Pakistan constitute only 20% of the labour force, as reported by the World Bank in 2021. The situation is no different in India. Female employment in India plunged to 9% by 2022. Bangladesh, however, has shown visible signs of improvement. Women in Bangladesh make up 30% labour force, as indicated by the World Bank in 2021.

The second important metric is Educational Attainment. An educated woman makes an informed choice regarding all social, political and economic aspects of her life. The status of women's education compared to men is a direct measure of Women's Empowerment. Pakistan scored 0.825 on the Educational Attainment Index of the report, while India and Bangladesh scored 0.923 and 0.961, respectively. Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only countries in the South Asian region showing more than a 10% gender gap in the Education sector. UNICEF suggested that 22.8 million children aged 5-16 are out of school. Out of those children, 13 million girls are out of school. Although Article 25A of the Constitution of Pakistan guarantees free and compulsory education for children between 5 to 16, the ground reality is diametrically opposite. These statistics are a wake-up call for the dwindling status of girls' education in Pakistan.

Health and Survival is a third yardstick to gauge gender equality among genders. 141 out of 146 countries closed nearly 95% gap in the health index. Pakistan is amongst the five countries having a gap greater than 5%. Other countries include Qatar, Azerbaijan, China and India. As per the Maternal Mortality Survey, Pakistan has a maternal mortality ratio of 186 per 100,000 live births. UN Sustainable Development Goal recommends reducing the Maternal Mortality Ratio to 70 deaths per 100,000 births by 2030. MMR in India stands at 113 deaths per 100,000 births.

The fourth pertinent indicator of measuring the Gender Gap is Political Empowerment. Women can never be equal to men until they essentially lead the political frameworks. Given the positive affirmative action in the form of a 17% quota, the 15th National Assembly of Pakistan had 20% women as MNAs. The representation was merely 3% after subtracting the reserved seats. Pakistan scored 0.156 on the Political Empowerment Index and stood 95th worldwide. Our regional competitors, India and Bangladesh, stood 48th and 9th overall.

Global Gender Gap closed at 68.1% this year. 33% of women occupied senior leadership in public and private sectors. The report predicted it would still take 132 years to witness gender parity globally. The South Asian region, however, owing to its slow progress, is expected to reach gender parity in 197 years. Pakistan as a country and South Asia as a region greatly need to expedite the rate of closing the Gender Gap to match that of the world.