The participation of women in the labour force in India has been gradually decreasing for the past decade. And now there is a dire need for the numbers to start changing and women’s participation to start rising. A recent report by World Bank has laid emphasis on how impactful increased participation of Indian women in labour force can be.

The report suggests that the capital city, Delhi, should bring in reforms in favour of women labourers to boost performance and participation. Such a move will also increase the family income; reduce poverty, besides creating better health and education conditions for children in the household. Its key finding is that an increase in labour force participation by women can lead to double-digit growth in India’s GDP as opposed to the current 7 per cent which has been consistent for the past three years.

Now, the policy makers want to adapt the same policies as China because of its successful two-digit GDP growth for the past three years. It has also helped in eradicating poverty and increasing the per capita income of citizens in the neighbouring country.

The last time evaluated, the Female Labour Force Participation in India (FLFP) had dipped to 27% in 2011-2012 from 40% in the early 2000s and this has been the steepest decline in the world.

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There are many reasons for the decrease in FLFP — lack of better education opportunities for girls in the age group of 15-24 years, the government’s inability to create jobs in manufacturing and services sector are a few of them. Also, there is a large pool of educated women who aren’t joining the workforce for various social reasons. The report found that at least two-third women are sitting at home even after getting educated.

India’s unemployment rate for educated women is far higher than that of Bangladesh, Indonesia and Brazil. In fact in Bangladesh, more women and labour focused export growth strategy has been taken to increase FLFP and such strategies need to be applied in India also.

“One should look for the data of females looking for jobs and not getting them — that is also a usual case. It also largely depends on various sectors where women were employed in high numbers but were left without a job during the economic crisis. The working conditions make it harder for women to join, which needs to be sensitized,” said Kavita Krishnan, noted feminist and Secretary of All Indian Progressive Women’s Association.

She added, “I feel unwillingness to work or family not sending them to work is not really a reason why there is a dip while looking for work.”