As per the latest report ‘Analyzing Female Employment Trends in South Asia’ by the World Bank, if you are a moderately educated woman, you are significantly less likely to get a job in India, compared to your higher- or lower-educated fellows.
This paradoxical relationship between female education and labor force participation in India is highlighted by the report which reveals that the real problem behind the low female labor participation rate in India is the exclusion of women from white-collar clerical and retail sales jobs, which are among the major employment sectors for moderately educated workers, and typically female in the rest of the world.
The World Bank predicts that if all women engaged in domestic duties who are willing to work had a job, the female labor force participation rate would increase by about 20 percentage points in India. The report also highlights that the fall in the labor force participation rate among educated women in urban India is linked to their limited participation in sectors suitable for educated women, such as white-collar services, while the share of graduates in the overall working-age population has nearly doubled.
When it comes to major reasons for low female labor participation rate, it is closely linked with the status of women in a region, religion, or caste. As a result, significant differences in female labor force participation exist by region, ethnicity, religion, and social status. Moreover in India, a husband’s preference and perceptions of community attitudes are also linked to his wife’s work outcomes. Especially, where males perceive that the community thinks badly of a husband whose wife works, the likelihood of wives working falls majorly.
Legal barriers are another hurdle in female employment. For instance, restrictions on working hours are key to understanding how a discriminatory policy may affect overall female participation in the labor market.
Similar factors were also pointed out by the joint report recently released by Bain and Co. and Google titled Women Entrepreneurship in India—Powering the economy with her. The report highlighted that four dominant challenges women entrepreneurs face in India are personal and cultural factors, access to funding, access to knowledge and professional support. However, with proper support and efforts, women entrepreneurs in India can generate 150-170 million jobs by 2030, which is more than 25% of the new jobs required for the entire working-age population.
The need of the hour as highlighted by both reports is enabling more supporting structures and an all states effort to level the playing field for jobs for women as well as more support for women entrepreneurs.