Reaping the potential of the female workforce
- The participation of women in the workforce in India has remained low.
- In 2019, 21% of women were either working or looking for work, compared to 32% in 2005.
- India’s female labour force participation (FLFP) rate is the lowest among the BRICS countries and is also lower than some of its neighbours in South Asia such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
India’s demographic dividend
- India’s population is among the youngest in the world.
- In 2020, the median age in India was about 29. Women and girls form a significant part of India’s demographic dividend.
- Countries like China, Singapore, Taiwan and South Korean are examples of how the demographic dividend can be reaped to achieve fast-paced economic growth.
- Access to higher education, skill training and digital technology are the three great enablers in helping India reap the potential of its female labour force.
- According to United Nations Women estimates, women make up a significant proportion of all healthcare workers and more than 80% of nurses and midwives.
- The care service sector, which includes health, education, and other personal care services, is more labour-intensive than sectors such as manufacturing, construction or other service sectors.
- Greater investments in better health and care facilities improve the well-being of India’s people and hence the economic productivity.
- The International Labour Organization (ILO) also suggests that it will lead to more employment opportunities for women.
- The ILO Report on Care work and Care Jobs for the Future of Decent Work: Key findings in Asia and the Pacific (2018) indicated that increasing investment in the care economy has the potential to generate a total of 69 million jobs in India by 2030.
- The gig economy comprises platforms that offer innovative solutions in different sectors such as transport, retail, personal and home care.
- Platform jobs have low-entry barriers and cater to the needs and aspirations of workers with varying degrees of skill sets.
- Studies indicate that women appreciate the income-generating potential of the gig economy.
- The ILO Global Survey (2021) noted that working from home or job flexibility are particularly important for women.
- According to the GSMA Mobile Gender Gap Report, only 25% of women owned smartphones compared to 41% of men in India in 2020.
- Closing this gap can be significant in boosting women’s employment in the gig and platform sector.
Policies and measures
- Women and girls’ access to higher education (beyond secondary education) and skill training is critical to improve their employment outcomes.
- Women need to be motivated to take up higher education through incentives such as scholarships as well as transport and hostel facilities.
- Online skill training can also be beneficial to women who face constraints in physical mobility due to social norms, domestic responsibilities or concerns over safety.
- Women must be mentored to take up employment opportunities in emerging sectors.
- Governments, skill training partners, private firms, corporates and industry associations as well as civil society organisations all need to come together to create enabling measures for women.
Policies supporting the expansion of care services along with gig and platform sectors can serve as an effective strategy to strengthen aggregate demand, while simultaneously improving long-term economic growth, gender equality and societal well-being.
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