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Since the COVID-19 outbreak, female employment in India fell steeply and now, plummeted to 9% in 2022, which is in the same league as war-torn Yemen. “Between 2010 and 2020, the number of working women in India dropped from 26% to 19%," World Bank data showed, and as the infections surged, a bad situation turned dire. More than 100 million jobs were also lost due to the coronavirus-linked lockdown.  

The global data is equally troubling. “Failing to restore jobs for women — who have been less likely than men to return to the workforce — could shave trillions of dollars off global economic growth," news agency Bloomberg reported adding “The forecast is particularly bleak in developing countries like India. "

How women employment can help in expanding GDP? 

Currently, the employment gap between men and women is about 58 percent point. And closing that gap could expand India’s GDP by close to a third by 2050, as per an analysis from Bloomberg Economics. But not addressing the issue can derail the country's quest to become a competitive producer for global markets.

Though women in India represent 48% of the population, they contribute only around 17% of GDP compared to 40% in China.

The report also pointed out that PM Modi's government has prioritized job creation from the beginning. “But his administration has made little progress in improving prospects for working women. That’s especially true in rural areas, where more than two-thirds of India’s 1.3 billion people live."

Why women employment in India is sharply declining? 

The decline in female workforce participation is partly about culture. As Indians became wealthier, families that could afford to keep women at home did so, while those at the lowest rungs of society are still seen as potential earners. But they tend to work menial or unpaid jobs far from the formal economy. 

Since the pandemic, increased domestic duties, lack of childcare options after school shutdowns might have contributed to the decline further, the report pointed out. 

Marriage is a sticking point in India, where most weddings are still arranged. After the first lockdown, in 2020, the country’s leading matrimony websites reported a spike in new registrations. 

Financial considerations often tipped the scales in favor of marriage. Social distancing and warnings against large gatherings meant parents could hold small, less-expensive ceremonies at home, rather than the multi-day celebrations that are common even in the poorest pockets of society. During the direst stretches of the pandemic, some families married off daughters because they couldn’t afford to feed another mouth, the report added. 

(With inputs from agencies)

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