Looking beyond the usual statistics

| | in Oped

Gender equality is not only about social empowerment; it’s to do with the economy as well. An increase in the women workforce in economic sectors will boost GDP

Along with the improvement of the overall employment, what needs special thrust in socio-economic policy for inclusive economic growth in India is gender empowerment. When policies are directed for reducing the gender gap in employment by raising the female labour force participation, reducing the gender inequity in different spheres like access to food, nutrition, health, education, legal and social status and property inheritance laws, there will be accelerated inclusive economic growth.

When women get greater employment, the wage disparity between men and women is reduced and women's income is increased in the household compared to that of men, there is going to be a proportionately high expenditure on food, medicine, education, care and well-being. Control over land and housing, increasing participation in employment, economic activities and decision-making can lead to women empowerment and accelerated inclusive economic growth.

While the fiscal policy can be effectively used as a major driver for income re-distribution, public sector expenditure priorities should be driven towards reducing inequity in income distribution between the rich and the poor sections of the people and for gender empowerment.

India has become the world's third largest economy. Innovative social and economic policies helped to lift 60 million people out of poverty in the last decade or so. However, the country has 30 per cent of the poor, which is the largest share of the world's extreme poor people having an earning power less than $1.25 a day. Not surprisingly, India ranked 134 in human development indicators out of 187 countries in 2011. One of the key challenges before the nation is to create adequate number of jobs for the world's largest and youngest workforce and build sustainable cities that can accommodate rural urban migration pressure.

The recently-released key indicators on employment by the National Sample Survey Office together with other indices narrate a sad story of gender inequality in employment and skewed economic development. India's population based on 2011 census was 1.21 billion, with 940 females per thousand males as against 933 females in 2001. Alarmingly, the child sex ratio had declined during the decade, from 927 in 2001 to 914 in 2011.

Though there is an improvement in the male literacy rate over the decade, from 75.3 per cent to 82.14 per cent, and in the female literacy rate too, from 53.7 per cent to 65.46 per cent during 2001 to 2011, there is still substantial gender inequality in literacy rate and employment.

The worker population ratio for males in 2011 was 53.8 per cent while that of the female declined from 21.5 per cent to 18 per cent. Out of the 40 per cent of the population constituting the labour force, with ages above 15 in the country, 41 per cent live in rural areas and 37 per cent in urban areas. Out of the employed, 55 per cent in rural India and 56 six per cent in urban areas are males. There are only 25 per cent females employed in rural areas and about 16 per cent in urban areas.

In the ultimate analysis, the creation of more and better jobs can solve the increasing unemployment among the youth. In order to be engaged in gainful employment, the youth need the right employability skill-sets. There is a need for intense training in skill-development, learning capabilities and on-the-job learning, while earning an livelihood.

The creation of more jobs in public, private, non-Government sectors, agriculture and allied industries, manufacturing, infrastructure and industrial sectors and service sectors, will help. Added impetus on vocational training and capacity development must be given. In sum, when about 50 per cent of the population constituting the female gender joins the labour force, India's GDP will grow at a faster rate.

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