Only the women for whom a man’s salary is not enough to make ends meet go to work. Image used for representation. (Photo: iStock)
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India’s Wealth Is Rising, but Fewer Women Are Joining Workforce

Fewer Indian women are entering the labour force, even as India's economy expands rapidly, reported Bloomberg. The collateral damage is the country's demographic dividend.

Only the women for whom a man’s salary is not enough to make ends meet go to work. With only one in five women in urban India contributing to the labour force, women from well-off families are usually not sent out to work, finds the Bloomberg report.

As this trend persists, the advantage India's economy receives from its young population diminishes, an Oxford Economics report says.

While the International Monetary Fund predicts for India an average annual expansion of 9.9 percent over five years, United Nations data traces India's total labour participation rate decline from 68 percent in the 1980s to approximately 60 percent in 2011.

In the next couple of decades, India is expected to replace China as the country with the largest working age population in the world. But in the absence of a substantial pick-up in the participation rates, the country appears ill-placed to take advantage of this demographic boom.
Priyanka Kishore, lead Asia economist at Oxford Economics to Bloomberg

The Oxford Economics report finds that the labour force participation is the maximum among rural males (80 percent) and the lowest among urban women (20 percent).

According to an analysis of data by IndiaSpend, more young women are enrolled in higher education and are even more successful than their male counterparts in clearing Class 10 board exams. But they are either marrying early, not acquiring or not even looking for jobs.

While the median age of marriage in India has increased, it is still relatively low. The pressure for girls to get married might be the reason for them excelling in secondary education, but not making it to the job market.

Rising household incomes may eliminate the “need” for women to work. But this apparent win for patriarchy is increasingly a loss for India’s economy.