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Editorials/Opinions Analysis For UPSC 17 June 2024

  1. Closing the Gender Gap in Education and Politics
  2. The Kafala System and Worker’s Rights


Gender parity may be on the rise globally, with the gender gap closing to 68.5% in 2024, according to the Global Gender Gap report by the World Economic Forum (WEF). However, the slow pace of progress—up just 0.1% from 68.4% in 2023—is disheartening. At this rate, achieving full parity will take 134 years, which is about five generations beyond the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target. Iceland remains the top country, having closed 93.5% of its gender gap and being the only nation to surpass 90%.


GS2- Issues Related to Women

Mains Question:

Analyse the performance of India in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2024. Also suggest ways to minimise the rising gender gap in India. (10 Marks, 150 Words).

About the Global Gender Gap Index:

The index benchmarks countries on their progress toward gender parity across four key dimensions with sub-matrices.

  • Each of the four sub-indices, as well as the overall index, is scored between 0 and 1, where 1 indicates full gender parity and 0 signifies complete imparity.
  • It is the longest-standing index, tracking progress in closing these gaps since its inception in 2006.


  • To act as a compass for tracking progress on the relative gaps between women and men in health, education, economy, and politics.
  • To provide an annual benchmark that allows stakeholders in each country to set priorities relevant to their specific economic, political, and cultural contexts.

Gender Gap in India:

  • India has dropped to 129th place out of 146 countries, after ranking 127th last year and 135th in 2022.
  • Within South Asia, India ranks fifth, behind Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan, with Pakistan ranking last in the region.
  • India is among the countries with the lowest levels of economic parity, comparable to Bangladesh, Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, and Morocco, with less than 30% gender parity in estimated earned income.
  • India shows the highest gender parity in secondary education enrollment. In education, the literacy rate gap between men and women is 17.2 percentage points, placing India 124th in this area.
  • India ranks 65th globally in the political empowerment of women and 10th in the parity of years with female/male heads of state over the past 50 years.
  • However, women’s representation at the federal level remains low, with 6.9% in ministerial positions and 17.2% in Parliament.
  • As of 2024, India has closed 64.1% of its gender gap. The drop in ranking from 127th to 129th is primarily due to small declines in the ‘Educational Attainment’ and ‘Political Empowerment’ parameters, despite slight improvements in ‘Economic Participation’ and ‘Opportunity’ scores.
  • The report attributes India’s slight decline to small decreases in education and political empowerment.
  • Given India’s vast population of over 1.4 billion, even minor setbacks result in significant impacts.
  • Politically, while India has improved on the empowerment index, women’s representation in Parliament remains low.
  • The newly elected Lok Sabha has seen a decline in women Members of Parliament, from 78 in 2019 to 74 out of 543 members, or 13.6%.
  • This is concerning given the pending Women’s Reservation Bill, 2023, which aims to reserve one-third of seats in the Lok Sabha and State legislative assemblies for women.

Way Forward:

  • Achieving gender parity can be advanced by addressing gaps such as the labor force participation rate, currently at 45.9%.
  • This requires comprehensive measures: preventing girls from dropping out of higher education, providing job skills, ensuring workplace safety, and supporting women in maintaining employment post-marriage by promoting shared household responsibilities.
  • Despite some progress in economic participation and opportunity, India needs to improve by 6.2 percentage points to reach its 2012 score of 46%.


Underperforming countries, including India, should heed the advice of WEF Managing Director Saadia Zahidi, who urges governments to strengthen the necessary framework conditions for business and civil society to collaborate on making gender parity an economic priority.


Within hours of the fatal fire that killed 49 migrant workers, most of whom were Indian, in the Mangaf area of Al Ahmadi municipality, Kuwait, several immediate actions were taken. Kuwait’s Interior Minister attributed the fatalities to the greed of the employer and building owner—NBTC, in this case—and announced that company officials would be held criminally liable. Municipal officials were also suspended for failing to maintain building codes.



  • Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests, Indian Diaspora.
  • Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Mains Question:

Discuss the Kafala System prevalent in gulf countries and its working. What vulnerabilities are faced by the Indian diaspora due to this system? Highlight in the context of the recent fire in Kuwait. (15 Marks, 250 Words).

The Kafala System in Kuwait:

  • In the following days, more announcements are expected, and some officials will likely face consequences.
  • Although Kuwait is unlikely to officially release the names of the 49 deceased, their names will appear in Indian and Philippine media.
  • It is easy to replace these workers by recruiting new ones, thus filling the gaps left by those who perished.
  • However, humanizing these workers requires acknowledging their presence beyond mere labor and safeguarding their rights.
  • This would only be possible by dismantling the pervasive Kafala system—a complex of laws and practices that grant all power to the state and citizens, treating individual migrants as temporary even though their labor is nearly permanently needed. Therefore, any promises of action by Kuwait must be scrutinized carefully.
  • In Kuwait, where foreigners make up 70% of its 4.3 million population, and across the rest of the GCC states (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman), similar practices are followed with varying degrees of control over migration and migrants.
  • These six states host approximately 35 million migrant workers, representing 10% of all international migrants, with Indians being the largest group among them.

Concerns Raised:

  • The immediate concern is the overcrowded, unsafe, and unhygienic labor accommodations, making residents highly vulnerable to any emergencies.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, GCC states struggled to contain the virus spread in these labor accommodations.
  • Kuwait, in particular, had some of the most discriminatory lockdown practices, especially in areas densely populated by migrant workers.
  • An amnesty was announced, leading to the deportation of tens of thousands of workers in April 2020, at the pandemic’s peak. No lessons were learned, and tragedies continue in various forms.
  • Kuwait has some standards for workers’ accommodations, but the focus has been more on evicting ‘bachelors’ from family zones and relocating them to subpar living spaces rather than ensuring employers provide suitable housing.
  • According to Kuwait’s labor law, employers engaged in government contracts (such as NBTC) must provide suitable housing or an allowance—25% of wages if they earn the minimum wage (KD 75) or 15% if paid above the minimum wage.
  • The cost of decent living is roughly KD 200 per person, excluding rent. The extremely low value placed on their labor determines their position in the economic hierarchy.

Gap Between the Cost of Living and the Minimum Wage:

  • The significant gap between the cost of living and the minimum wage is a fundamental aspect of the Kafala system.
  • In this system, work and residence visas are tied to the employer, granting them considerable control over their employees’ lives.
  • For the nearly three million migrants in Kuwait’s low-income sector, this translates to complete reliance on their employer for accommodation, food, and transportation.
  • With a minimum salary requirement of KD800 to sponsor a family, most migrants cannot bring their families with them.
  • By maintaining low wages, Kuwait and other Gulf states ensure that workers remain vulnerable, forced to live in substandard housing, struggle with poor food quality, and have minimal socio-cultural presence in the countries they contribute to building.

Way Forward:

  • The Mangaf tragedy has been technically attributed to an electrical short circuit. However, the underlying cause is the systemic neglect of the state towards the rights and well-being of low-income workers and the gross negligence of the employers.
  • There are many ways this tragedy could have been prevented. If the employer had conducted better safety checks, if the state had valued these workers enough to ensure they earned better wages and lived better lives, and most importantly, if the workers had been able to organize and collectively voice their grievances, they could have demanded better treatment.
  • However, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states strongly oppose any form of labor organization or unionization. Allowing workers to voice their concerns would threaten the existing order.
  • The most effective strategy to prevent this is to maintain wages at a level that keeps workers in perpetual financial insecurity, making it easy to deport them swiftly at the first sign of protest or dissatisfaction.


In the aftermath, Kuwaiti officials often promise improved safety standards and stricter penalties, but these reforms rely on monitoring by employers and workers, avoiding broader changes that would genuinely enforce the law. Such changes would empower workers, who stand to benefit most from these reforms, to speak out against injustices they experience.

July 2024