Women and Employment – UPSC GS1


  • GER of girls in elementary education has improved dramatically, from 66% in 1991 to 97% in 2014
  • GER of girls has also improved in higher education, from 7.5% in 2002–03 to close to 20% in 2012–13 (just a shade behind boys at 22%).
  • In fact, women account for 51% of all post-graduates in India today.
  • Yet, statistics reveal that improvement in education has not led to improvement in employment of women
  • The World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2015 ranked India at 139 out of 145 countries on the economic participation and opportunity gap.
  • India’s overall female labour force participation (FLFP) rate remains low and has, in fact, dropped from 35% in 1991 to 27% in 2014.
What is the issue?
  • Too few women go out of their homes to work for a wage on a regular basis
  • Data show that women enter the labour force in large numbers when there is economic distress, such as a drought. They come out to support the dwindling family income. They then withdraw from the labour force once economic circumstances improve
  • The right to safety and to choose the life they want is the biggest challenge even today.
  • Women who get paid for their work earn less than their male colleagues, even when doing the same work, which economists call the gender wage gap.
  • Female unemployment has been on the rise in some states of India. And few states have not taken this seriously.
  • Lack of infrastructure, transportation, and child care facilities have also held women back.
  • The more daunting problem is that of social norms that deny the possibilities of economic freedom to women
What organisations are doing to support female employees?
  • Organizations are  identifying women with high potential and ensuring that they are provided opportunities to accelerate.
  • Organisations are open about extending paid maternity leave beyond the grossly insufficient three months mandated by law.
  • In Spite of these changes, there needs to be a deep organizational belief in the benefit of increasing women’s representation in the workplace, as well as supportive day-to-day actions and behaviours.
  • Without these, the effect of all policy measures will remain superficial and even counter-productive
What is needed?
  • Smart work and not slogging should be rewarded
  • Need to create more female role models in corporates
  • Flexibility like work from home, flexi hours, sabbaticals etc.
  • Increasing openness of organizations to extend paid maternity leave beyond the grossly insufficient three months mandated by law
Why a better deal for Indian women is necessary?
  • First, a higher proportion of women in the labour force will boost economic growth, as was the case in most successful Asian economies.
  • Second, the persistent problem of high levels of child malnutrition cannot be solved unless pregnant women have privileged access to nutrition within families, itself a function of gender rights.
  • Third, higher political participation by women seems to result in better public goods choices if one goes by the wealth of research that is now available on panchayat decisions in India.
World Bank Report on Women Employment:
  • Using data from the NSSO, this report shows that labour force participation rate of women in India has slipped dramatically in the last 20 years.
  • The drop has been most dramatic among women in rural India.
  • Research shows that while nearly half the rural women aged 15 years and above were “in the labour force” in 1993-94, the number dropped to less than 36% in 2011-12.
  • Labour force participation rate of urban women has also dropped in the same period.



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