Women's participation in the workforce is at an all-time low, as per a recent ASSOCHAM report. As a matter of fact it as declined in the past decade, from 34% in 2005 to a staggering 27% in 2014. India as a country has very low female workforce participation if we are to compare ourselves with countries with similar levels of GDP, like France, Italy and Brazil, where the participation rates are quite high. Consequently, it would be safe to say that women are on the slope downhill, as far as gender equality is concerned.
But what are the reasons to these appalling statistics? In a conversation with ShethePeopleTV, Jayati Ghosh, Professor of development economics at JNU explains the real interpretation of this drop:
This doesn’t mean that less women are working, but it means that less are engaged in paid or recognized work. If you look at our sample survey data, there are more and more women who are engaged in unpaid work at household level, and most of this work very productive, like kitchen gardening, looking after poultry and livestock, preparing and processing items, basic care giving of children. What really happened in the last decade in the past decade women have shifted from paid to unpaid work.
What really happened in the past is that decade women have shifted from paid to unpaid work
Another very important factor contributing to this rising gap is the falling sex ratio. As per the Census of India, the male to female child sex ratio has also dropped from 927 to 911 female births per 100 male births between 2001 and 2011. And this concept is not limited to a particular class. Prof. Ghosh explains the qualitative aspects of this drop, clearly stating that this practice is not limited to a particular class:
If you are reducing their ability to be even be born, is a real sign that society doesn’t adequately value women.This adverse sex ratio as gone worse with new technology and higher income. Our growth hasn’t improved the status of women
Another crucial impediment is our society' obsession with the idea of marriage. Arranged marriages are the kind of pressure that we all succumb to, and as per reports, one in three girls gets married before she turns 18 in India. And like any Indian would know, marriage for an uneducated woman before legal age means that she is bound to a life of dependence and domestic subservience. A woman's domestic responsibilities restrict her access to public institutions of employment and self-growth, leaving her at the mercy of her partner.
As per WEF reports, it would take us 118 years to reach a point of gender parity even if started today, and we haven't started yet. This statement was made in the Swiss Alps about 6 months ago. With the length of the journey and challenges at hand, we need to at least question ourselves as to what went wrong in the past decade? What did we not do right, or perhaps not do at all? What can we do to change things?