India’s GDP could increase by $700 billion (Rs 46 lakh crore) by 2025 simply by raising India’s female labour-force participation from the current 31% to 41% by 2025. Around 70% of the jobs would be created in the top 9 states—Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. That would bring in 68 million women—47 million in rural and 21 million in urban India—into the workforce, according to a McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report, The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in India. It states that at 17%, India has a lower share of women contributing to the GDP than the global average of 37%. It is 33% in Latin America, 39% in sub-Saharan Africa and 41% in China.
The report mapped 15 gender equality indicators across work and the society in 95 countries. Using these it calculated a Gender Parity Score (GPS) where GPS is set at 1. India’s GPS is just 0.48. It also developed a new score—the India Female Empowerment Index or Femdex—based on 10 of the 15 indicators for which state-level data is available. The simple average Femdex score in the top five states—Mizoram, Kerala, Meghalaya, Goa, and Sikkim—that are closest to gender parity is 0.67, which compares with Argentina, China and Indonesia. The bottom five states—Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Jharkhand, and Uttar Pradesh—scored 0.46 which matches Chad and Yemen. The problem for India is that while the top five states account for just 4% of India’s female working-age population, the bottom accounts for 32%.
To ensure that 68 million women join the work-force, MGI has suggested that India needs to focus on eight areas: closing gender gaps in secondary and tertiary education; lowering barriers to job creation; expanding skills training for women in key sectors; expanding reach of financial and digital services for women entrepreneurs; stepping up gender diversity policies the private sector organisations; strengthening legal provisions for women; improving infrastructure and services to address the high burden of routine domestic work; and reshaping deep-rooted attitudes on the role of women in work and in society. One positive for India is that many of the reform measures being pursued are gender-neutral. The government could use the Make-in-India and the Skill India programmes to focus on sectors that are conducive to women employment, such as electronics assembly and healthcare. That could be crucial for India’s future.