India’s GDP Set to Increase if 50% of Women Enter the Workforce

At a one day conference on the topic of “Integrating Women’s Development with Nation’s Development: Role of Stakeholders”, Jyotika Kalra, member, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said in her presidential address that even if half of all Indian women participate in the workforce the GDP of India will increase by 1.5 to 9 percent. According to her, all the focus surrounding women issues has gone to violence against them and while this is important too, there isn’t enough focus on empowering women to become powerful agents of development in India. Also, there the government has been driving for the education of the girl child, but how about the participation of Indian women in the workforce?

India is the only country among the 153 surveyed countries where the economic gender gap is larger than the political gap

The reality is that the number of working women has reduced drastically in the last decade and this has greatly impacted the economy for the worse. Although there has been a drastic increase in urbanization, this has not encouraged women to work and this itself is worrisome. The current female participation is 24.8 percent which is a drastic drop from 34 percent in the year 2006. The study conducted by the UNGC (United Nations Global Compact) India study also revealed that ‘India is the only country among the 153 surveyed countries where the economic gender gap is larger than the political gap. Gender stereotypes and lack of infrastructure has traditionally sidelined women from core manufacturing functions. As a result, not many are able to reach leadership roles.’ This really does put things into perspective; there is a massive need for the implementation of women-friendly policies that will encourage greater female participation in the workforce. 

A majority of women quit their jobs for familial commitments and even though they want to return, it usually never happens

Women can make India more prosperous and research is proving this time and again and the key is to enable women to work paid jobs and more importantly to stay at work, this is the challenge. This is because, after a few years of working, many women quit their jobs for various reasons and a majority of these are for familial commitments. Although there are many organizations that seek to empower women with all the necessary skills they need to bag paid jobs and also provides them with flexible work and work from home. Even though today there are more work from home opportunities for women, is there a good support system for them to make a career comeback successful? Moreover, one important aspect that needs to change is the social norms that Indian women are subject to which can affect their marriage, work, and household duties. “We must also raise our sons to respect girls and women and make it clear that there is zero-tolerance for gender-based violence.

In the home, we need families to see their girls as capable future professionals. Household responsibilities can be equitably divided between men and women,” added the World Bank. At the end of the day, we need Indian women and the truth is that without their participation India will never be where it could be from the point of view of GDP.

Image credit: The Economic Times

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