Women: The Missing Half of Demographic Dividend

The New Indian Express | Image used for representational purpose only | Photo |EPS

Currently India’s working-age population — classified as those between the ages of 15 and 64 — is in excess of 925 million. The Economic Survey reveals that the number of persons active in the labour force at around 518 million. The gap, the missing hands, essentially reflects the edging out of women from the workforce.

India is in the company of Pakistan and Somalia. In female workforce participation rate India ranks worse than Saudi Arabia at 31 per cent, Turkey at 32 per cent, Bangladesh at 35 per cent, Myanmar at 41 per cent, Uzbekistan at 45 per cent, Malaysia at 51 per cent, Mongolia at 51 per cent, Thailand, at 59 per cent. Even countries in Sub-Saharan Africa fare better.

This brings into question the design and playbook which rests on the slogan Beti Bachao Beti Padhao. What must the girl child aspire for? In 2021 India slipped 28 places in the Global Gender Gap index ranked at 140 among 156 nations — a prime reason being the slide in workforce participation rates.

A good start could be reserving a third of government jobs (within the current reservation norms) for women — to create room, arrange guard rails to enable families feel secure for women to step out and be able to contribute. The lead would have to be taken by national parties.

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Shankkar Aiyar

Shankkar Aiyar

Journalist-Analyst. Author of ‘Accidental India’ and Áadhar: A Biometric History. Studying how the market for politics rules the economics of people!