As it often happens, perception differs from facts. The general perception, especially among urban and urbane youths, is that the women workforce is substantial and it is quite easy for educated women to find quality jobs. However, the facts say female participation in the workforce of India is one of the lowest in the world, according to World Bank Development Report. The report which was released in May 2017, ranked India in the 120th position out of 131 countries, where the data is available.
The factors that were considered to be critical in boosting female participation in the Indian workforce were conducive and safe environment, incentives and level playing field, as per the World Bank report.
Despite the perceptions being otherwise, the level of women participation in India has fallen since 2005. This worrisome that despite 42% women are graduates, the women participation keeps on dropping. The report is of the opinion that India’s GDP growth rate can increase a percentage point if there is increase in the women participation.
What is most surprising is the engagement of women in the workforce which is primarily in the agricultural sector. In the service industry, the share of women is less than 20%.
The World Bank’s senior country economist, Frederico Gil Sander said that younger Indian women are increasingly opting to study in schools and many drops out of the workforce because of dwindling job opportunities or increase in income levels.
“Concerns about women’s safety are strong and often genuine while flexibility, availability of childcare and adequate pay are important given social norms that require women to reconcile work with household duties,” the report said.
“One reason why women participation in the workforce has come down is because a larger number of younger women are opting to stay in schools,” Sander said.
The concentration of more women in the agricultural sector has more to do with lack of opportunities in other sectors than lack of interest. Sander said, “Women want to work but there are not enough jobs being created.”
Another reason for drop in the women participation of workforce is due to men grabbing most of the regular jobs. Between 2005 and 2012, the jobs created in India equivalent of the adult population is mere 0.9%. The women participation in India is only 27%, much lower than Brazil and China, where it vacillates between 65-70%.
With regards to this most women participation in workforce, World Bank country director, Junaid Ahmad said, “This is a cause for concern since higher labour earnings are the primary driver of poverty reduction.”