India has reached the Moon but it has failed to get its women out of homes. The Economic Survey finds that 60 per cent of women in India in the productive age bracket of 15-59 years are engaged in full-time housework.
Inclusive growth and gender equality are important for any country to reach its full potential and achieve faster economic growth. India has been working towards becoming a $5-trillion economy, but it seems to do that minus its female population.
The female labour force participation reduced to 25.3 per cent in 2017-18. It was 33.1 per cent in 2011-12.
What is important to consider is that more women work in rural areas and the rate of women falling out of workforce is also more in that area, when compared with urban areas.
But, the picture isn't any positive for urban areas also. The labour force participation of women in urban area is constant since the last five years.
The number of women attending educational institutes has doubled in the last five years. 30.3 per cent of young women in the age group of 15-29 years attended educational institutes in 2017-2018, almost double from 2004-05. While it is still less than 38.5 per cent of young men who attended educational institutes, the growth rate of women is faster than that of men.
The Economic Survey cites several reasons for the declining women workforce. One is more women are going for higher education, delaying their entry into the labour market. Another is with rising wages in rural areas, women who were forced to contribute to household income to make ends meet are not longer expected to go out. Lack of job opportunities, gender pay parity, and even unpaid care work of elderly and children are other contributing factors.
To improve female participation in the workforce, the Economic Survey says, several reforms have been introduced such as increase in maternal leave to 26 weeks, compulsory day care centres for children, equal wage policy amongst others.
Yet, policy and legislative reforms can only do much. What is required is a change in mindset and cultural ethos that enable and empower women rather than bind them in the burden of household work.