Why India needs more women in workforce? Here’s what is stopping them

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Published: March 8, 2019 3:47 PM

In the economic sphere, IMF has estimated a rise of 2.7 per cent in India’s GDP if the women workforce is given equal opportunities as men

Women in India are making strides in every sphere ranging from business, science, academics, social work etc. But still there is a long way to go for India to uplift its women population from all sections and empower them, as women’s work force participation in India remains limited to just 25 per cent, shows a report by McKinsey & Company.

In the economic sphere, IMF has estimated a rise of 2.7 per cent in India’s GDP if the women workforce is given equal opportunities as men. Moreover, even a 10% increase in women’s workforce participation could add $770 billion to India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2025, said a report published by McKinsey & Company.

However, here’s what is stopping women in India from participating in work and decision making.


35 per cent of the women are illiterate in India, according to the 2011 census. Often, illiteracy is seen playing a major role in creating suitable employment and growth opportunities.

The issue of gender pay gap is another problem. While WEF’s Global Gender Pay Gap Index has noted a marginal improvement in wage equality for similar work, it is still high as women earn 19 per cent less compared to men, according to a recent survey by Monster Salary Index. The wage gap varies across sectors as men earn 26 per cent more in IT services and 24 per cent more in manufacturing sector, said the Monster Salary Index.

Poor health and survival condition of women has also been pointed out by The Global Gap Index.

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A low and declining women’s labour participation has also been pointed out by the Observer Research Foundation, which has cited four primary reasons behind it. One, the pervasiveness of entrenched patriarchal social norms still hinder women’s freedom and mobility. Second, rising household incomes has created a disincentive for labour market participation among women mainly informed by the same norms. Third, the disproportionate burden of unpaid household and child caring work on women. Fourth, absence of suitable jobs for women and a significant gender wage gap.

Way Ahead:

India needs to get more women into senior and professional roles to make more improvement in the rankings, said the Global Gender Gap Index report.

While there are various factors which restrict the economic participation of women in India, most can be traced back to the unequal social norms and customs in the society, which needs to be addressed, said the ORF report. Education and technology can play a role in addressing several challenges, the report added.

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