Working Women: Improving gender parity could unlock significant economic gains

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Published: April 26, 2018 4:00:12 AM

MGI notes that women's labour force participation in the country has fallen—it is the second-worst amongst the 18, behind competing economies like Vietnam, Indonesia and even Bangladesh.

India particularly needs to work on many fronts where other A-PAC peers are already doing much better.India particularly needs to work on many fronts where other A-PAC peers are already doing much better.

Asia-Pacific’s economic potential has been the talk of global fora on growth for decades now. And yet, it lags realisation substantially, not the least because of its gender parity gap. New research from McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) says if the region—the analysis considers 18 economies—were to focus on improving women’s equality, it could add $4.5 trillion to its collective annual GDP in 2015. That’s a 12% increase over the business-as-usual (BAU) GDP in 2025. The report notes that while China could have the largest absolute increase—the $2.6 trillion increase projected translates to a 13% increase over the BAU—the largest relative GDP potential is India’s for the taking, an 18% increase over BAU, with $770 bn added. MGI pegs the boost to three levers: increasing women’s participation in the labour-force, increasing the number of paid hours for women and adding to their share in productivity by opening up opportunities for them in high-productivity sectors.

India particularly needs to work on many fronts where other A-PAC peers are already doing much better. MGI notes that women’s labour force participation in the country has fallen—it is the second-worst amongst the 18, behind competing economies like Vietnam, Indonesia and even Bangladesh. It may be attributed to rising household incomes, but the fact remains that continued and new participation would have meant greater economic gains. India does marginally better when it comes to political empowerment—this has a direct bearing on ensuring policy is more inclusive and even facilitative of women’s economic participation—and physical security. But, in comparison with the other economies in the list, this is not much to speak of. Women missing from leadership positions in companies across A-PAC isn’t “all about the glass ceiling”. Asian economies, and specifically India, must tackle the pipeline that leads here, right down to the skewed tertiary enrolment levels and enrolment in tech education, and even school education.

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