Meeting social welfare goals — gender equality, justice, and empowerment — can, at times, yield unexpected benefits. A new global study published in the journal, PLOS Global Public Health, bears evidence of this. The said research has hypothesised that gender parity can prolong life expectancies of both men and women. While the correlations between gender equality and economic and health benefits are well established, the relationship between gender equality and life expectancy has not been explored extensively; this makes the findings of the report interesting. This first-of-its-kind research used a modified global gender gap index developed by the World Economic Forum and examined data in four spheres — economic opportunity, education, health and political representation — across 156 countries from 2010 to 2021. Excluding the health parameter, it was found that a 10% rise in mGGGI resulted in an increase of 4.3 months in women’s life expectancy; the figure for men is 3.5 months for the year, 2021. This indicates that even though the gender gap in life expectancy widens initially, the ripple effect of a — utopian? — gender-equal society would ultimately benefit men’s longevity. The study offers some important deductions. It challenges, indeed dismantles, the myth of gender parity being conducive to women’s welfare only. It also reinforces the importance of a gender-equal world at a time when disparities between the sexes have been amplified by the pandemic.
António Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general, has rued that the decades of advances made in gender equality are being wound back at an alarming rate and that it would take another 300 years to close the global gender gap if the current — regressive — trends continue unchecked. Several global surveys have also validated Mr Guterres’ concern and the situation in India is no better. According to the WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report 2022, India stands at 135 out of 146 countries. The need of the hour is to arrest the decelerating momentum. Several studies have shown that developing gender sensitivity early in life can positively impact equality. Interestingly, the PLOS study too emphasises educational equality. Dishearteningly, the recent All India Survey of Higher Education report has shown that the Covid-19 pandemic has widened the gender gap in higher education. Returning education to girls and boys, along with other incentives for closing the gender gap, should be prioritised on a war footing.