New Delhi: India has been placed in the bottom half among 134 countries in terms of gender equality, according to a World Economic Forum (WEF) study.
Faring better than last year’s ranking, India has cornered the 112th position. In 2009, it was ranked 114th.
Europe's Nordic countries remain global leaders in the campaign to close the gender equality gap, according to a study released on Tuesday that said women could play a key role in leading the world out of economic crisis.
Iceland, Norway and Finland topped the WEF annual gender gap index, while Pakistan, Chad and Yemen were in the bottom of the 134-nation rankings.
The report -- which assesses how equitably income, resources and opportunities are distributed between the sexes -- gave particular praise to the Philippines in Asia and Lesotho in Africa, which were both in the world top 10.
The United States surged from 31st last year to 19th, while France dropped more than 25 places to 46th, mainly because of its "poor performance" in women's political empowerment.
"The evidence reveals that gender disparities in French politics remain persistent, despite legislation that mandates an equal number of men and women candidates on political party lists," it said.
Many of the world's other top economies also lag. Japan is 94th and China 61st. Britain was unchanged in 15th place, but Germany fell for the fifth straight year to 13th.
The report said Iceland had made new gains "because of an increase in the number of women ministers, a near gender-balanced Parliament and the continued tenure of a female prime minister.
The only blemish was "a significant difference between men's and women's salaries”.
Lesotho rose two places to eighth in the index. It had a top ranking for education and health and was the highest-ranked among the 134 countries on the economic participation sub-index.
New Zealand at fifth and the Philippines, at ninth, led the Asia-Pacific nations.
"The Philippines is the only country in Asia this year to have closed the gender gap on both education and health, and is among only eight countries in the world to have done so."
The United States entered the index top 20 for the first time mainly because of education improvements, with women outstripping men in higher education.
China fell one place to 61st, which the WEF blamed on lower scores on labour force participation, perceived wage equality and the lower number of reported births of girls.
"China becomes the second-last ranking country on the health and survival subindex (133), the result of its disproportionate sex ratio at birth, which contributes to China's 'missing women' phenomenon," said the WEF.
(With Agency inputs)
First Published: Tuesday, October 12, 2010, 14:48