The Budget Has Made Women’s Economic Participation Secondary

One of India’s biggest economic struggles is providing women with equal opportunity to work, not to mention also providing this in the workplace once they are employed and therefore, it comes as no surprise when India ranks low on women’s overall health and survival and ability to access economic opportunities. Countless local and international news reports have long emphasized the lack of working women in India, both from rural and urban areas and this making the various gender gaps wider than ever. More recently, The World Bank said, “no country can develop and achieve its full potential if half of its population is locked in non-remunerative, less productive and non-economic activities.”

Women-focused initiatives were dismissed as aspirational, but not practical enough to garner attention

The recent 2020 budget, however, was thought to be a saving grace in a struggling economy in the country, but the question to ask is why wasn’t there a focus on the participation of women in the economy. From the agricultural sector to social initiatives to even female-focused initiatives, such domains barely received any attention and this is extremely unfortunate because involving women can be one of the factors that can catapult the snail-paced current economy. Also, these women-focused initiatives were also dismissed as aspirational, but not practical enough to garner attention. ‘Ignoring India’s declining female labor force participation at a time of economic distress is a mistake. In a country where young women’s education is now at par with men’s, ignoring that half of the population isn’t participating equally in the economy means we are missing out on innovation, entrepreneurship, and productivity gains.’ Therefore, it is vital that the government refocus its efforts on encouraging women to participate in the workforce through smarter policy and gender-intentional implementation.

Do people in power have the political will to get women to work?

Rohini Pande, Henry J Heinz II Professor of Economics and director of the Economic Growth Center and Charity Moore, director for South Asia Economics Research at the MacMillan Center, Yale, recently wrote, “Working with economists from Harvard Business School, the University of Southern California and Duke University, we tested how women’s activities and well-being changed when this straightforward policy was put into effect in conservative areas of northern districts in the state. We helped women open their own bank accounts, trained them on how to use their accounts, and made sure their MGNREGA wages would be deposited into their newly opened accounts.” Hence, wouldn’t it be wonderful if the government take on this as its mission to ensure that programs that target working women are being supported financially as well as through plenty of encouragement. However, it all depends on political will, are people in power ready to pull in women to carry the economy forward?

Image credit: Enterslice

Related Articles