Women Empowerment – Where they stand and What can they do
India has a population of 1.2 billion and is on its way to becoming the most populous country in the world. India’s biggest asset is its population, which translates into its workforce. The Indian youth demographic is expected to produce 234 million workers by 2027. Hence, as a growing economy, India is tied down when its biggest asset isn’t completely utilized.
For every 100 boys, 90 girls are born. Women make up 48.5 % of the population but they only make up 26% of the workforce, which have declined from 35% in 2005.
Status of women in India, the unsatisfactory truth.
According to the National Family, Health Survey conducted in 2015 – 2016, the age demographic of female workers fall between 15 – 49 years. The percentage of female workers in this demographic have declined from 43% to 31% in the past decade. This could be the result of compulsory education, as fewer teenagers are available for physical labour.
According to a report by the International Labour Organisation, China has one of the highest female labour participation rates with 64%, followed by the USA with 56%, whereas India is 121st in 131 countries with only 26%, significantly lower than countries like Nepal and Bangladesh.
The multiple schemes put forth by the government of India has increased literacy and education in women. Unfortunately, the more educated the women are, the less likely they are to enter the workforce. It has been studied that a majority of women enter the labour force when they have no options for income. So when educated women marry educated men, the husband’s income is sufficient to cover household expenses and there is no immediate need for the wives to earn. The current economic situation is also to be considered as many men and women believe that men deserve to have the first choice from the few job opportunities available.
A large amount of the job opportunities available in rural areas are in the labour sector for which many of these educated women are overqualified for. There is also the issue of permission faced by married women. As societal beliefs dictate, a married woman is unable to go out to work unless she has permission from her husband and in-laws, which is very unlikely to happen as the social status of a family in India depends on the husband being able to provide for her. She is expected to stay at home and look after the children and ensure the smooth functioning of the household. An Indian housewife puts in an average of 40 hours of work a week in and around the household. A World Bank study suggested that a decrease in 2 hours per week in household work in rural areas will increase the female labour participation, to which the government has started a scheme to provide pressure cookers to decrease the amount of time spent by women collecting firewood.
Whereas women in urban areas are frustrated with the double standards they face in the corporate sector. According to the Global Gender Gap report of 2017, women earn 62% of what their male counterparts earn for the exact same work. They would rather not work than having to face the sexual harassment and inequality. A lot of them are also worried for their safety as violence against women in India is 6 times higher than the global best scores. This makes it difficult for them to work night-shifts or work overtime, which puts them at a disadvantage. A lot of these offices are not women-friendly. There is also the issue of ‘sex-based segregation’ in workplaces. Women miss out on many opportunities as they are seen unsuitable for the position on account of just being a woman.
Role of Women in India’s development.
The role that women play in development could prove pivotal to our country. Increasing female workforce participation even by 10% will result in 700 billion dollars rise in the Indian GDP by 2025 which would be extremely useful in propelling India towards economic stability. To bring about this inclusion of women in the workforce, an increase in the number of factories and cottage industries in the rural area is necessary. The high rate of female workforce participation in China is due to the abundance of production factories which provide for thousands of jobs. Whereas in urban areas, the corporate sector must provide for more flexibility with regards to their female employees, i.e. paid maternity leave, work from home options etc. Another way to attract female employees would be to promote gender equality and actually pay them the same as their male counterparts without discriminating them on the basis of their gender and making sure they get equal opportunities with regard to promotions and leadership positions.
Employed women create 1.3 more jobs, as working women hire maids and nannies. Working women also tend to use day-care centres for older kids, which in turn creates more jobs. By making the workforce more friendly to female participation, not only are we creating more job opportunities and increasing the annual GDP of our country by 16%, but also empowering the women in our country to be financially independent and improving the quality of life for both women and their children. Many studies show that women tend to spend more on their children. In a two-income household, there is less pressure on the men to provide and care for the family and the quality of life of the family in whole increases. Women earning also ensures, to a certain extent, their safety from domestic abuse and dowry harassment.
In the current age of feminism and women empowerment, it’s hardly a question of “Can women work?”, the question is “How can we help them work?”.
By removing the stigma around women working, making it easier for women in rural areas to enter the workforce regardless of how much their husbands are earning. Introducing skill-based courses in local schools, creating more opportunities and educating women on them, pushing for the availability of loans for women to start their own businesses and encouraging small-scale women-owned businesses, that hire more women. In short, by hiring more women.
The solution is simple enough and the economy needs the boost. As a country, we must redefine our work ethics and stop holding traditions in such high regard.