India’s gender employment gap persists despite increased female workforce

| Updated: 29 February, 2024 7:12 pm IST

NEW DELHI: A new report by Moody’s Analytics, a research and analytics firm, has revealed that more Indian women are joining or rejoining the workforce, but the gender employment gap is still four times that of the US or the European Union. The report, titled ‘Narrowing the Gender Participation Gap’, was released on Wednesday and analysed the trends and impacts of female labour force participation across the world.

According to the report, India and the Philippines have shown the highest decline in the gender employment gap since 2019, adding $1.5 trillion to global income. The report defines the gender employment gap as the difference between the proportion of working-age men and women who are employed or actively seeking employment. The report attributes the narrowing of the gap to the increased availability of remote work, flexible hours, and digital platforms, which have enabled more women to balance work and household responsibilities.

However, the report also notes that the gender employment gap remains high in India, especially in rural areas and among less educated women. The report estimates that the gap in India is around 49 percentage points, compared to 12 percentage points in the US and 11 percentage points in the EU. The report cites various factors contributing to the low female labour force participation in India, such as social norms, safety concerns, lack of infrastructure, and limited access to education and skills.

The report suggests that policy interventions that improve the quality and accessibility of education for girls, expand formal employment opportunities for women, and address the barriers and biases women face in the labour market can help further reduce the gender employment gap and boost economic growth. The report also highlights the benefits of increasing female labour force participation, such as higher incomes, lower poverty, better health and education outcomes, and greater gender equality.

The report’s findings are consistent with other studies that have examined the trends and challenges of women’s employment in India. For instance, a study by Azim Premji University found that the share of women in salaried employment has increased in recent years, but the gender wage gap persists across employment types and earnings levels. Another study by the Indian School of Business found that gender discrimination, lack of mentorship, and work-family conflict are some of the reasons why the gender gap persists in Indian workplaces3

The report comes at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on women’s employment and livelihoods, especially in the informal sector. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, about 17 million women lost their jobs in April 2020, and the female unemployment rate rose to 15.5% in December 202045 The report calls for urgent action to support the recovery and resilience of women workers and entrepreneurs, and to ensure that the gains made in female labour force participation are not reversed.


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