Despite superior education than men, participation of women in India's labour market, especially in urban areas, remains low, as per the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE).
Education levels of women have been on the rise in India, and though the proportion of women is less than half in the population, more than half of fresh graduates are women, CMIE Managing Director Mahesh Vyas wrote in an article.
"The battle on education of women in India was won a decade ago. 50 per cent of all fresh graduates were women between 2011-12 and 2015-16. In 2018-19, 53 per cent of all fresh graduates were women," Vyas said.
However, women participation in workforce remains low and unemployment levels remain high as compared to men.
Saying that the true test for women working outside their homes lies in urban region, Vyas said that according to the official Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) in 2018-19, 73.7 per cent of urban men participated in the labour markets, but only 20.4 per cent of urban women did so. In spite of this very low participation, women faced a higher unemployment rate of 9.8 per cent in urban India, compared to the 7 per cent unemployment rate faced by men.
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"Only 18.4 per cent of urban women of 15 years or more of age were employed in 2018-19 according to PLFS. However, 68.6 per cent of urban men in the same age bracket were employed," the article said.
The situation is even more grim if data from CMIE's Consumer Pyramids Household Survey is considered. Only 8.4 per cent of urban women of 15 years or more were employed in 2018-19. This fell to 7.3 per cent in 2019-20 and is likely to have fallen to less than 6 per cent in 2020-21, CMIE said.
"Indian women work a lot. But, their work is predominantly at home in service of other members of their household. Their participation in the labour markets outside their houses, in urban India is very low in spite of their superior education," it said.
Vyas said there are three possible reasons for lower women participation in workforce. Either Indian women are not willing to go out to work or they are not allowed to go out to work or people are not willing to give them work in spite of their education, he said.
"The second and third cases reflect bias in society and possibly, they cause the first case. Indian women have education, inspiration and perspiration but, not enough employment."
However, all is not lost as the number of women has seen an increase in some of the areas.
Over 8 per cent of directors on boards of listed companies were women in 2019-20. Besides, 64 per cent of listed companies have at least one woman director. The amendment in Companies Act in 2014, making it mandatory for all listed companies and large unlisted companies to have a woman on their board of directors, has also helped in this rise, CMIE said.
"But, it is not just legislation. An estimated 1.7 per cent of CEOs of companies in India are women. These numbers are small but they are important," it said.
Besides, women have also been making progress in politics. Over 14 per cent of Members of Parliament (MPs) elected in 2019 Lok Sabha polls were women. This proportion was over 11 per cent in 2014 elections, nearly 11 per cent in 2009 elections and 8 per cent in 2004 elections.
Besides, women political leaders like Indira Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee and Jayalalitha have been, or continue to be big mass influencers, Vyas said.
"It is fair to assume that women in India will continue to assume greater positions of power and influence in the coming years. Rising education and inspiration from torch bearers will increase the number and proportion of women CEOs, judges, administrators and political and thought leaders," he added.