The Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) is an index designed to measure of gender equality. GEM is the United Nations Development Programme’s attempt to measure the extent of gender inequality across the globe’s countries, based on estimates of women’s relative economic income, participations in high-paying positions with economic power, and access to professional and parliamentary positions.

The GEM was designed to measure “whether women and men are able to actively participate in economic and political life and take part in decision-making”

The GEM tends to be more agency focused (what people are actually able to do) than well-being focused (how people feel or fare in the grand scheme of things). The GEM is determined using three basic indicators: Proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments, percentage of women in economic decision making positions (incl. administrative, managerial, professional and technical occupations) and female share of income (earned incomes of males vs. females). The GEM is thought to be a valuable policy instrument because it allows certain dimensions that were previously difficult to compare between countries to come into international comparison.


1. Debate has arisen over whether or not they have been as influential in promoting gender-sensitive development as was hoped when they were first created.

2. They are highly specialized and difficult to interpret, often misinterpreted, suffer from large data gaps, do not provide accurate comparisons across countries, and try to combine too many development factors into a single measure. The concern then arises that if these indices are not well informed, then their numbers might hide more than they reveal.

3. It is often said to represent an elite bias. It has been accused of measuring inequality only among the most educated and economically advantaged women and to focus mainly on the higher echelons of society. Women in grassroots organizations or at the local political level are not reflected, as well as work in lower levels of employment or in the informal sector, where many women in poor and developing countries are forced to seek employment.

4. Not many less-developed countries collect reliable data on women’s involvement in economic participation or labor involvement. As a result, the GEM is only reliable for very highly developed countries which do collect those statistics. It is also often argued that the number of women in parliament isn’t an adequate indication of gender empowerment progress in a given country because many times feminists are considered political liabilities, and as such, female politicians do not always promote female interests. On the other hand, however, information regarding the number of parliamentary seats held by women is very easy to obtain, and very hard to alter, making it one of the more reliable sources of data in the measure.

5. Failure to address the issue of female control over their bodies and sexuality, which some argue is an important source of female empowerment and as such should be included in the measure.

6. The GEM has also been criticized for being far too dependent on the income component of the measure for determining the overall GEM score.

Measures taken by Govt of India include establishment of National Commission for Women(NCW), Rashtriya Mahila Khosh(RMK), launching of Indira Mahila Yojana(IMY), Balika Samridhi Yojana(BSY), Rural Women’s Development and Empowerment Project(RWDEP).

GEM Dimension 1: ‘Political Participation &

Decision-making Power


  1. % Share of Parliamentary Seats (elected)
  2. % Share of Seats in Legislature (elected)
  3. % Share of Seats in Zilla Parishads (elected)
  4. % Share of Seats in Gram Panchayats (elected)
  5. % Candidates in Electoral Process in National

Parties in the Parliamentary election

  1. % Electors Exercising the Right to Vote in the Parliamentary election.

GEM Dimension 2: ‘Economic Participation and

Decision-making Power’


  1. % Share of officials in service in Indian Administrative Service, Indian Police Service and Indian Forest Service
  2. % Share of enrolment in medical and engineering colleges.

GEM Dimension 3: ‘Power Over Economic



  1. % Female/Male with Operational Land Holdings
  2. ii) % Females/Males with Bank Accounts in Scheduled Commercial Banks (with credit limit above

Rs. 2 lakh)

  1. Female/Male Estimated Earned Income Share.

Suggestions for improving the GEM

Suggested alterations

  1. Let the GEM be altered to include female representation in local government instead of only national government to make it less elite.
  2. It has been recommended that it should be revised to reflect female participation in political activities such as voting.
  3. It has been recommended that a component regarding women’s control over their own bodies and sexuality be added by measuring availability of birth control and the right to abortion.
  4. It has also been suggested that the GEM could be altered to include the proportion of females who are in extreme poverty as opposed to the proportion of females holding parliamentary positions.
  5. It has been suggested that the GEM could be altered to include female levels of unemployment.
  6. Coming up with different ways to deal with the earned income part so as to make it a more straightforward mode of measurement.

Suggested Alternatives

  1. the calculation of separate Human Development Indexes for males and females which would provide a more straightforward picture of gender inequality
  2. Create a Gender-Gap Measure.

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