A 2010 UN Development Program AsiaPac report projects that India’s GDP growth could jump by 4% if women participation rates go up to 70%. As does another report by Future Capital Holding which predicts that more women entering the workforce could make Indians 5% richer than otherwise projected by 2015 and 12% richer by 2025. The report argues that an increase in women’s workforce participation could be one of the most powerful ways to boost economic growth, income and consumption in the long run. Women can bring to corporates the strategic business advantage, not only in terms of bridging the looming talent deficit but also in terms of serving a diverse customer base.
The sheer numbers of women work participation ratios tell us that there are many factors in play against achieving this optimal situation in India. Our cover story this issue, “Women are Opportunity” brings together some relevant data points for our collective reflection: 35% of women in working age contributing to India’s economically productive work. This is one of the lowest Work Participation Ratios (WPR) in the world (China has one of the highest WPR with 70%). Another interesting fact is that while the number of women getting into higher education has increased by more than 20 percent in the last decade, the data shows that the top quintile of educated women, mostly urban, are far less likely to work with a 23% WPR.
Some might argue about the data itself and how it’s being collected, or even on what do these numbers really mean, but on the face of it, India seems to be going in a different trajectory from other emerging economies. Countries like Vietnam and Thailand have a women work participation of 68%, Brazil 50% and Mexico 45%. Historically, there has been a correlation between economic / business growth and a substantial increase in women WPR, as the need to scale businesses tends to draw in women to expand labor supply.
Whether it is the social fabric of India, infrastructure and safety issues or problems associated with the status of women in the workplace, deciphering this paradox is not only crucial for corporates but for the country as a whole. The lack of participation of women in economically productive work could itself prevent India from realizing its demographic dividend.
As is our practice, we complement this story with initiatives that corporate India is actively driving to create the right environment to attract, nurture and retain women in the workplace and leverage the opportunity. This collection of best practices from companies such as Accenture, American Express Deloitte, Genpact, IBM, KPMG, MakeMyTrip, Monsanto, Pitney Bowes, Tata Consultancy Services, Tata Motors, Thomson Reuters contributes to bringing a positive take on what companies are doing to change the reality at the corporate level by challenging the status quo and bringing in the numbers.
We look forward to your feedback, comments and to more companies sharing their best practices for upcoming stories.