Women’s economic parity still a distant dream in India.


In India, women’s contribution to economic growth is just 17 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as against 37 per cent in the world, says Oxfam inequality report.

Vivek Kumar M

April 17, 2020

Though the world gradually seems to be moving away from the patriarchal lifestyle, giving equal opportunities to women, India seems to lag behind as women’s contribution to our economic growth is very minimal.

“Women in India represent 29 percent of the labour force, down from 35 percent in 2004. More than half of the work done by women in India is unpaid, and almost all of it is informal and unprotected … 60 percent of women have no valuable assets to their name. It is unsurprising then that at 17 percent, India has a lower share of women’s contribution to the GDP than the global average of 37 percent,” says UN business forum in its study on ‘Gender equality: Women’s economic empowerment’.

It also talks about crime against women in India as one of the challenges facing women and their role in economic growth.

There are several other socio-economic and cultural factors due to which women in India do not get equal opportunities.

Oxfam’s India Inequality 2020 report released in January this year also tells how women who are already part of the formal workforce are treated. It says, “If and when women enter the labour force, their weak position within the family and society gets mirrored in the world of formal labour.

“They are considered less literate and less experienced and are prejudiced to be having the burden of housework and less time, and they are underpaid and employed in unskilled jobs …and jobs which offer little social security—that are lower in the work hierarchy.”

Beckxy Kuriakose, who works in the financial services industry, says how she was overlooked at the beginning for a vacant senior-level position in the company she worked in despite all her achievements. Her junior, a man, was being considered for the post. But, Beckxy says she was assertive and the management could not overlook her. She suggests other women be assertive too when there is a need.

“If you feel that there is an opportunity and if you think you have worked hard and the opportunity is not given to you, please speak up and be assertive,” she said.

She was speaking at a panel discussion on ‘role of women in Indian finance service industry’ at Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) Star Mutual Fund’s tenth year anniversary.

Another panelist Swathi Kulkarni, who has worked with Kotak Mahindra bank for over 20 years and is also part of UTI AMC, says that women need to learn to say yes when they have to.

Even the government of India, in case of women army officers, told the Supreme Court (SC) that women cannot be given commanding posts as the male counterpart were not yet ready to accept women commanders.

After Supreme Court’s judgement in favour of the women, Lt Col. Seema Singh, who was one of the litigants in the case, termed the judgement as landmark and historic for the upliftment of women.

The Oxfam report says that the economic argument in favour of women’s paid employment is that if India’s female formal labour force participation rate is the same as China’s, then India’s GDP would grow at 27 percent. Or, if this rate is similar to men’s labour participation, the economy would grow at 43 percent.


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