Economic policy

Working towards gender parity is smart economic policy

In the past week, two reports on work participation highlight the fact that the majority of Indians, and women in particular, are unhappy with their working lives. Burnout rates are high, forcing them out of the workforce.

The first report, published by Mumbai-based research firm Center for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), is specific to India and says that currently more than half of India’s 900 million workers do not don’t want a job.

According to this report, the overall labor force participation rate (DPR) fell from 46% to 40% between 2017 and 2022. During the same period, 21 million women left the labor market permanently.

According to the CMIE, a drop in the LPR reflects a lack of growth in employment opportunities. As the working-age population increases, job opportunities must also increase. If job opportunities do not increase along with the working-age population, there will be a decline in the DPR.

The second report – [email protected] 2022: A Global Outlook – published by Deloitte is based on a survey of 5,000 women in ten countries, including 500 in India. The results of this survey are global in nature. According to this report, nearly 56% of women said their stress levels today were higher than a year ago. Nearly half of those 5,000 women felt burnt out and many said they planned to quit their jobs within the next two years.

According to the Deloitte report, the “great quitting”, a global phenomenon of mass departures of people amid the ongoing pandemic, appears to be continuing, particularly among women.

Interestingly, just days before these two reports were made public, Amitabh Kant, CEO of NITI Aayog, said, “India should aspire to be a high-income country by 2047, and that would require growth sustained economy year after year. Citing the oft-cited example of South Korea and China, Kant mentioned how the two countries managed to outpace India in posting 10% growth year over year. In 1947, South Korea and China had the same level of per capita income as India. Today, South Korea’s per capita income is seven times that of India, Kant said.

Kant’s aspirations are divorced from what both reports have to say – that the workforce is discouraged and women find it extremely difficult to keep their jobs. The reasons can be many, ranging from a hostile work environment to patriarchy at home where men are unwilling to lend a helping hand. What also doesn’t help is our environment. Traffic jams, lack of good public transport, lack of public order, low pay scales, workplace discrimination and low skills end up making jobs a bigger chore.

Indian women have been leaving the workforce for nearly two decades now. According to the International Labor Organization, between 2005 and 2014, the percentage of Indian women of working age in the labor force fell from 37% to 27%. With a further reduction of 21 million, this percentage would have decreased further.

It’s no secret that the pandemic has been tough on women. The work-from-home model increased the double burden on women – they had to be available for longer hours at work, in addition to answering doorbells, changing diapers and doing all the household chores.

Overall, a demoralized workforce could mean India will struggle to reap its “demographic dividend”. This, in turn, means that India will remain in the middle income trap. And even after 100 years of Independence, Kant’s dream would remain a long way off.

Again, higher incomes alone do little to reduce gender gaps. In fact, gender equality is at the heart of development. In 2018, Christine Lagarde, then head of the IMF and French politician, and Norwegian politician and former Prime Minister Erna Solberg said in a joint document that increasing women’s participation in the labor force to the same level as that of men could increase India’s GDP by 27%. . For this to happen, the public, private and social sectors will need to act to close the gender gaps in work and society.

The Deloitte report also found that women working for gender equality leaders reported significantly higher levels of well-being and job satisfaction. Of the women who work for them (five percent of respondents), 87 percent said they received adequate mental health support from their employer, and the same percentage felt comfortable talking about their mental health. at work.

Therefore, gender parity is the right development goal. This is smart economic policy. The government should encourage companies to make their workplaces more inclusive and their corporate policies more women-friendly. This could be our first step towards a better society. Growth and development will take care of themselves.

(Swati Prasad is a freelance business journalist.)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of DH.