From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much.
Mains level : Paper 3- Inclusive growth and need to focus on gender budgeting in India.
When it came to allocating funds, the budget relegates women’s economic participation to secondary importance.
The current status of women in India
- Lack of Equality: India continues to struggle to provide its women with equal opportunity.
- A low score on international measures: On international measures of gender equality.
- India scores low on women’s overall health and survival and ability to access economic opportunities.
- Why it matters? Since the woman’s economic engagement is related to her own and her family’s well-being, the continuing decline in rural women’s labour force participation is a cause for concern, and both affects and reflects these worrying gender gaps.
Why female labour force participation matters beyond social cause?
- Source of economic growth: Ignoring India’s declining female labour force participation at a time of economic distress is a mistake.
- Not just a social cause: Involving women in the economy is not a social cause — it is a source of efficiency gains and economic growth.
- Missing out on many things: In a country where young women’s education is now at par with men’s, ignoring that half of the population isn’t participating equally in the economy means we are missing out on many things, like-
- And productivity gains.
- Large potential to increase in GDP: The large potential increases in GDP that could accrue to India and countries around the world, if they could only close their labour force gender gaps, are often cited.
- 60% increase in GDP: A report by McKinsey Global Institute suggests that if women participated in the Indian economy at the level men do, annual GDP could be increased by 60 per cent above its projected GDP by 2025.
- Underlying conclusion: The underlying conclusion is that women’s potential to contribute to GDP is huge.
- Gain larger than any other region: The same analysis also suggested that India’s potential GDP gains through achieving economic gender parity were larger than gains in any of the other regions they studied.
How can the state be responsive to women?
It can be ensured in the following two ways-
- 1.MGNREGA-Important focus: An important focus could be a smarter policy and gender-intentional implementation.
- A key example comes from MGNREGA, a programme whose official policy has long been to pay individual workers in their own bank accounts.
- It is observed that this policy was typically not implemented and that women’s wages were usually being paid into the bank account of the woman’s husband.
- Why paying wages in women’s account matters?
- Giving women digital control of her wage:
- This seemingly small change — giving a woman digital control of her wages — had a big impact.
- Working women more outside their home: Women who received digital accounts plus training worked more outside their homes, not only for MGNREGA but also in private employment.
- Higher economic engagement and lessening patriarchy
- Importantly, women from especially conservative households reported higher economic engagement and an improved ability to move about their communities unaccompanied.
- Lessening of patriarchal norms: Surveys conducted showed that the payment in account also began to influence restrictive patriarchal norms.
- 2.Need to move beyond MGNREGA
- Ease of doing business and reform in labour market reforms: Continuing to improve ease of doing business and addressing rigid labour market regulations can also draw more women into high-potential sectors.
- Such as those supported under Assemble in India.
- Potential in manufacturing: Rural women’s relative participation in manufacturing has grown compared to men’s, and manufacturing stands out as a promising means to pull young women, in particular, into the economy.
- Potential in SMEs: Ensuring better support to small and medium-sized enterprises can help new businesses.
- Attune schemes to the aspiration of women: Ensuring that these programmes are attuned to the needs and aspirations of women is not expensive. But it makes a much difference.
- Review of policy and programme: It requires a review of individual policies and programme implementation.
- Increase the funding: The government needs to increase funding to programmes targeting women. Until then, the policy can build on the fact that pulling women into the economy isn’t just a function of budget allocations or social sector programmes. It’s also a matter of thoughtful policy design and political will.