[Answered]Involving women in the economy is not a social cause, rather it is a source of efficiency gains and economic growth. Comment.

Demand of the question

Introduction. Contextual introduction.

Body. Discuss how increased women participation in the economy can help economic growth.

Conclusion. Way forward.

Gender equality is a prerequisite for any country’s progress. According to Global Gender Gap report, the participation of women in the labour force is among the lowest in the world. According to the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Report, 2019, 1.3 billion women were in work in 2018 as compared to 2 billion men– a less than 2% improvement in the last 27 years. The report highlighted that women are paid 20% lower than men, as a global average. This situation necessitates a deeper understanding as lesser female labour force participation, hinders India’s progress.

Benefits of increased women participation in the economy:

  1. Realizing women’s rights: Women’s economic empowerment enhances women’s ability to participate equally in existing markets. It increases their access and control over productive resources, their own lives and bodies and increases their voice through meaningful participation in economic decision-making at all levels.
  2. Better Workforce: Increasing female labour force participation rates creates an opportunity for countries to increase the size of their workforce and achieve additional economic growth.
  3. Political stability: The World Bank has suggested that improved gender parity increases political stability and reduces the likelihood of violent conflict. This helps in enhancing economic policies and measures.
  4. Business efficiency:Companies greatly benefit from increasing employment and leadership opportunities for women, which is shown to increase organizational effectiveness and growth. For example, many women leader like Indra Nooyi, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw etc. have shown their might in business.
  5. Ripple effects: Investing in girls and women creates a ripple effect that yields multiple benefits. Increasing women’s control over household income improves their children’s access to school and healthcare, boosts women-run businesses and improves their status within families, communities, and entire countries.

Steps taken by Government to encourage women participation in workforce: 

Legal effortsGovernment schemes
Equal Remuneration Act, 1973: It provides for payment of equal remuneration to men and women workers for the same work of similar nature without any discrimination.Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women (STEP): The scheme aims to provide skills that give employability to women and to provide competencies and skill that enable women to become self-employed/entrepreneurs.
Minimum Wages Act, 1948: The wages fixed by the appropriate Government are equally applicable to both male and female workers and the Act does not discriminate on the basis of gender.Scheme for Working Women Hostel: The scheme aims to promote availability of safe and conveniently located accommodation for working women, with daycare facility for children, at places where employment opportunities for women exist.
Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act 2008: The act seeks to ensure social security to the workers including women in the unorganised sector.Mahila E-Haat: It is a direct online marketing platform leveraging technology for supporting women entrepreneurs/SHGs/NGOs for showcasing their products/services.
Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017: It provides for enhancement in paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks and provisions for mandatory crèche facility in the establishments having 50 or more employees.Rajiv Gandhi National Crèche Scheme for Children of Working Mothers: It seeks to provide day care facilities for children (0-6 years) of working mothers.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013: It seeks to protect women against sexual harassment at all workplaces both in public and private sector, whether organised or unorganised.Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana (IGMSY) Scheme: It provides cash incentives to pregnant and nursing mothers to partly compensate wage loss both prior to and after delivery.
Advisory on Factories Act: The government has issued an advisory to the States under the Factories Act, 1948 for permitting women workers in the night shifts with adequate safety measures.Various other schemes: The government has also prioritized women in many schemes such as the MUDRA scheme, STAND UP India, MGNREGA etc. to boost women employment.


Way forward:

  1. Financial awareness: Increasing women’s economic independence through improving financial literacy, access to financial services and assisting women to develop their employment prospects is important.
  2. Child-care subsidies: Child-care subsidies should be provided to free up mothers’ time to enter the labour force which would have significant implications in increasing female employment. Child-care subsidies can also have positive spillover effects on the education of young girls for they no longer have to be left behind to take care of their younger siblings.
  3. Education: Education, upskilling and reskilling over the life course, especially to keep pace with rapid technological and digital transformations affecting jobs are critical for women’s and girl’s health and wellbeing, as well as their income-generation opportunities and participation in the formal labour market.
  4. Employment Quotas: Gender-based employment quotas can play an important role to put more women in visible positions and possibly change social norms around women and work.
  5. Gender diversity in private-sector organisations: Private sector companies should focus on human resources policies and practices to promote gender diversity. There should be specific company measures to recruit, retain, promote and develop women. Companies should also take measures to tackle unconscious biases amongst both men and women workers.

Women continue to face many barriers to enter the labour market and to access decent work. Article 16 provides equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment. Thus, the goal must be not merely to increase female labour force participation, but to reduce overall mindset and gender gap.

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