Can India hit the double-digit economic growth? That could become a reality if more of its Women participate in the economy. India succeeded in becoming the second-fastest growing economy in the world in the last decade, but without including enough of its women. A recent report shows India’s gender gap is among the worst in the world. The World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap report has ranked India at 108 out of 144 countries surveyed, showing a fall of 21 places from the last year’s survey. But on the economic front, India’s performance is even worse. It has ranked at an abysmal 139 on the economic participation and opportunity sub-index of the report. The report has listed parameters—participation in labour force, wage parity with men, proportion of women who are legislators, senior officials and managers, and share of women in professional and technical workers—where India faces challenges when it comes to participation of women in the economy. According to the report, 66 per cent of women’s work in India is unpaid while the figure for men is just 12 per cent. The report also shows that India, along with other lower-middle income countries like Sri Lanka, Egypt, Bangladesh, Guatemala and Indonesia, has managed to close only 67 per cent of gender gap in labour market participation compared to 75 per cent for upper-middle income countries and 78 per cent for high-income countries. One of the main challenges faced by women in the workforce is the dropout rate after childbirth. The government brought changes to maternity benefits law in March this year to address this problem. The amended law has enhanced the period of paid maternity leave to six months for first two children. The move will encourage more women to return to the workforce after childbirth. World Bank’s recent Ease of Doing Business report took note of this. It says the new law has improved overall job quality. Another major concern is that India has too few women at the higher levels in corporations. Recently, the Uday Kotak report on corporate governance recommended at least one independent woman director in the boards of India Inc. This shows that higher representation of women at top levels of the organisational hierarchy could lead to improvement in corporate governance. The World Economic Forum report suggests the government should make continued efforts to achieve parity in economic opportunity and participation. Greater role for women in the workforce would increase the quality of growth in India. And it can certainly boost India’s GDP too.
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