The Indian labor market displays very low rates of female labor force. The country cannot reach development goals without granting women the role they deserve or recognizing that women would never be empowered without previous economic autonomy.
As of now, women only represent 27% of the active economy of India but instead of an increase in their presence in the labor market, the opposite effect is observed. In the last decade, we have seen a decline in women’s active participation, as per data provided by the Indian government. Specifically between 2009 and 2012, we have lost 2.7 million female jobs, especially in rural areas. This is 70% of India’s activity and that is where the discrimination of women largely concentrates.
This discouraging data has contributed to a general decline in gender equality, which plays an important role in economic development. Various studies have emphasized how weak entrepreneurial activity and lower female labor force participation drags down economic growth. It is also increasingly being indicated that empowering women has significant benefits for the economy of the country, besides the inherent effect on gender disparity.
We should also note that India is the 4th most dangerous country for females in the world. Such statistics give rise to the following question – Is there any room for hope? Yes, there is. The answer lies in small measures such as empowerment programs and community intervention in all strata of society.
Their implementation directly benefits the communities they work with and also help to encourage the government to advance their policies against poverty and structural inequality. That is not to say the task is easy, but it is possible.
It’s not that women don’t want to work. Much of the reason they don’t seems to lie in the persistence of India’s traditional gender norms, which promote to ensure the purity of the women by protecting them from other men than just their husbands. This also restricts their mobility outside their homes. This pattern has to change.
In urban India, jobs are closer, but women struggle with the lack of access to traditional male-dominated job opportunities. That is why women often end up with low salaries and less-responsible positions with respect to their abilities and preparation.
In some places women begin to participate in unions and even some feminist organization appears. On the bright side, data indicates that the female enrollment in higher education has increased. Training is certainly the essential strategy to enter in the labor market and skilled positions; the factor that will promote real empowerment and economic autonomy as necessary.
The objectives of the G-20 indicated that the government should incorporate five million of women in the labor market each year for a decade. In fact, to achieve parity, 195 million women should become a workforce, which would increase gross domestic product (GDP) in 27%. Therefore equality of women in the economy and their active presence are essential for India became the emerging country that claims to be.
What is needed in India is to transform the gender norms and use policy tools (quotas and training) to ensure that all women have the opportunity to undertake rewarding work.