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Also known as gender egalitarianism or sex equality, gender equality is a standpoint that every individual should be treated equally in all life aspects (health, education, employment, leadership) without any discrimination on the basis of gender(Jayachandran, 2014). Under the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, one of the key objectives is to enhance gender equality in social and law settings. Such situations include democratic activities and ensuring equal work payment for all genders. This can only be achieved when both men and women are granted similar opportunities and rights in decision making, economic participation, leadership opportunities and the valuation and favoring of the varied needs and aspirations of both genders.
In practice, the key goal of gender equality is to help people attain equal treatment in the entire society, not only in politics and at workplaces but also in every other life institution. However, across different countries, regions, social and religious groups, this is not the case since as evident from role representation of both genders, women are not granted equal treatment as men. Specifically, this is a common trend in the developing nations where the feminine gender is perceived as subordinate and hence not worth being granted the rights and opportunities to certain religious, political and social roles. This is going to be the key focus of this paper, that is, to explore the current key trends in gender gaps across groups, countries and regions. The key patterns of gender gap this paper is going to look at is the correlation between economic development and gender equality as well as general country development and gender equality. It is also going to analyze some of the arguments from other scholars like Duflo and Jayachandran explaining some of the possible causes of these trends as well as providing an individual standpoint as far as these gaps are concerned.
From time immemorial, gender bias is an issue that has been in existence and particularly in the favor of men while compromising the rights and opportunities of women. In few other cases, the rights of men have also been compromised in situations where certain professions such as nursing are deemed to be exclusively female whereas there are men with the potential and capacity to undertake the roles and other few similar circumstances. However, with the rise of gender equality movements like the United Nations, tough legislation on gender rules and affirmative actions, gender inequality has gradually declined and currently: men are actively and increasingly undertaking jobs in occupations previously deemed feminine, women can assume religious and political roles, women can take on their husband’s surnames just after marriage and both the boy and girl child can access equal education and social opportunities. However, this trend is not uniform all over the globe since it is only apparent in a good number of developed nations and very few developing countries.
In most developing countries, as the World Bank’s Data Set (World Development Indicators) indicate, the ratio of male to female higher education enrolment is downward slopping when plotted against the Gross Domestic Per capita. The trend is also similar for both secondary and primary education where the schooling gap enrollment is negative. Also in employment, as reported by the World Bank, the number of men in labor force participation completely outnumber their feminine counterparts. Taking an instance of India, the chances of a woman to be working is a third that of a man, similar trends are also reported in North African countries and the Middle East (Jayachandran, 2014).
In marriages, a good number of individuals in developed countries comply with the fact that women should be vested with more decision making power on decisions regarding child development, friends and family visits as well as other household related activities. On the contrary, most of their counterparts in developing nations believe that household decision making should be a man affair with very minimal involvement of women. Causative to this thought, Jayachandran, (2014) argues that the key possible reason to this trend could be the need for improving a developing child’s outcome and that women’s in house decisions could only be perceived as an aspect of their well-being. At a personal viewpoint, this argument is valid given that for most cases where women decisions are not tolerated, the obvious perception is that they are subordinate. Consequently, to bring up a well-developed child as Jayachandran (2014) argues, there is the need for decisions from the ‘superior being, the man’.
For freedom of choice and life satisfaction, most women from developing countries believe that they have very limited control over their lives compared to their female counterparts in developed nations. This is based on the data collected by World Values Survey (WVS) in a study to determine the level of freedom of choice and life satisfaction among women in developing countries. The resultant data of the survey also indicated for women in North African Countries, the Middle East and India, the freedom of choice is more of a dream than a reality (Jayachandran, 2012). This provides a key gender gap pattern where there is a direct correlation between the labor participation of a given gender and the level of life satisfaction and freedom of choice. This is true since the regions and countries given above are the same where the labor participation of men is three times that of women as seen in the previous sections of this paper.
Also from the previous sections of this paper, one apparent gender gap trend is the role of economic stability in either enhancing or limiting gender equality. One evident fact is that gender inequality where males are favored in higher education enrollment, primary and secondary schooling, freedom of life, freedom of choice and decision making power in marriages is only rampant in the less economic stable countries. According to Jayachandran (2012), as a country grows economically, the higher the chances of gender equality. Below are some of the ways in which the level of development influences gender parity.
Masculine based production is the first argument that Jayachandran (2012) poses as one of the key links between economic stability and gender equality. Taking an instance of agriculture based production where the key factor is physical strength, he argues that the result here is less labour participation of women compared to men who are well endowed with physical strength. This consequently results into gender inequality where the men might seem to be more advantaged. However, if the women are to solely undertake mental jobs where physical strength is no consideration, then as the country develops, more women are likely to be employed than men resulting into another gender imbalance. However, if the development occurs at a relatively slow rate and both genders can undertake both jobs, the consequent result is gender parity.
Based on this argument, Jayachandran (2012) is apparently right since developing nations are seemingly still majorly oriented towards agriculture based production thereby providing more working opportunities for men. In this state, the women are jobless, cannot fend for themselves and whatever kicks in is reliance on the working men. This consequently gives rise to limited life freedom on the side of the women, compromised decision making and gender based violence. All these rise because with the women dependent on them, the men feel superior while the women are bound to inferiority. Ostensibly, as Jayachandran (2012) argues, economic development is a key factor towards the attainment of gender parity and it is undisputable it is the key reason behind gender inequality in the developing nations.
The key indicator of economic development is advanced technology, high household income and good infrastructure. With these factors in place, home production is likely to be more efficient with minimal labour requirements. This implies that to the women who are the key players in performing home production activities, more of their time will be spared and they will consequently have enough time to spare in doing other jobs. The obvious result here will be more absorption of the women into the labour market. In developed countries, this is the case and the root to the gender balance in the regions. In underdeveloped countries, women have to still carry out home based production activities manually thereby limiting the time they can spare for other jobs. One of the key reasons for gender imbalance in the regions.
According this argument, Jayachandran (2012) is partially right given that there are certain developing nations like India, The Middle East countries with relatively good infrastructure and better home production technologies but there is still gender bias in terms of employment. This is as a result of cultural barriers, custom beliefs and religious practices barring women from being absorbed into the labour market. On the other hand, with enough time to spare in the absence of any other barriers, women are likely to be absorbed into the labour market thereby enabling them fend for themselves. Once this is achieved, all the other sources of gender imbalance are sealed.
In summary, Jayachandran (2012) arguments indicate that most of the gender gaps in almost every domain is largely in developing countries compared to developed nations. This can be particularly attributed low economic development, traditional methods of production, cultural and religious beliefs favouring males. For this to change and for the attainment of gender equality, these nations will need to shift from agriculture to technology based production, advance in household technology to curtail the time spent in performing household chores and eliminate certain limiting religious and cultural barriers. All these factors will serve to increase the chances of women participation in the labour market.
Another key pattern of gender gap is women empowerment and economic development. According to Duflo (2012), there is a direct bidirectional link between women empowerment and economic development. Women empowerment in this case is enhancing the women’s access to earning opportunities, political participation, constitutional development, education and health opportunities. In one direction, Duflo (2012) indicates that development can be a key player in eliminating inequalities between men and women. On the other hand, empowering women can be a key ingredient in stimulating development. She argues that the root of inequality between men and women is the lack of opportunities and poverty. When development sets in, the two are eliminated and the conditions of both gender improves but that of women improves more than of men.
Also, just like Jayachandran argues, Duflo (2012) also indicates that gender gaps are mostly apparent in poor nations. In regions like Latin America and East Asia, gender inequality is still relatively high despite a gradual improvement over the last decade. In her argument, granting women more power is the key to attaining development since they are better performers than men and can work in different sectors and are often more committed. However, she also acknowledges some of the factors that lead to gender inequality in favour of men at workplaces. These factors include more commitment to household chores, high competition in the labour market and cultural barriers on the side of women.
Personally, at an individual standpoint, I do not agree with Duflo’s arguments. To a certain extent, some of the arguments are correct, for instance, poverty and limited opportunities are the root causes of gender inequality in the developing nations and curbing them is the key to attaining parity in both genders. However, arguing that empowering women is the key to enhancing development is completely wrong. Economic development is a joint effort and requires joint efforts from an entire nation to achieve.
On the other hand, I fully agree with the arguments posed in Jayachandran (2012). The key to closing the gender gaps in the developing nations is only through the development of new production technologies, shift from agricultural economies as they are the key factors that facilitate male dominance in the poor economies. In addition, the low female participation in the labour market in the Middle East, India and North African countries can only be solved by curtailing the cultural and religious institutions offering more favour to the males.
Even so, reports by The Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic forum indicate that in an average country, the relative position of women to that of men has improved over the past 9 years. Cultural and institutional change models point towards similar global trends and this can only be attributed to the roles played by Non-Governmental organizations, International non-governmental organizations and other organizations in the campaign for gender equality. Nevertheless, the situation in developing countries is not worth plausible but still calls for more activity on the side of the concerned organizations.
In a nutshell, even though gender gaps are still wide in developing counties, very few countries on the global map have completely sealed the inequalities even in the developed nations. In political empowerment, only two nations, Finland and Iceland have closed the gender gap to over 60%. In economic participation, several countries in North Africa and Middle East like Jordan, Yemen, Iran Syria and Pakistan have over 50% opportunity and economic participation gap. In other areas like leadership, health, higher education, science research and technology, the trends are similar in developing nations where the male species is mostly preferred to the female counterpart.
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