Gender equity is one area where India has a lot of ground to cover. But data from the income-tax department suggests the country is making progress in bridging the gender gap in economic activities. Mint takes a look at what the Permanent Account Number (PAN) data reveals.

How’s the gender ratio changing at work?

Official data suggests that close to two-thirds of the 435.2 million PAN cards issued so far by the income-tax department have gone to men, with women’s share limited to a bit more than a third at the end of FY19. This skewed ratio shows that women in the country lag behind men in economic activity and financial transactions. The silver lining is that the skewed ratio on PAN numbers is changing. This is significant as gender equality has been a politically important issue for a long time, with the government coming up with various welfare schemes to improve the standards of living of women.

Where is the improvement?

The share of women in the total number of PAN cards issued has risen steadily from 31.92% by the end of FY17 to 37.16% at the end of FY19, with that of men declining from 68.08% to 62.84%. This is significant considering that a person having taxable income is required to have a PAN. It is an essential document for securing a debit or credit card and for entering into a host of financial transactions, including payments to other parties. PAN is mandatory for a large number of transactions above 50,000, including purchase of mutual funds and foreign exchange, apart from making cash payments at hotels.

What’s behind the changing dynamics?

Government efforts to educate more girls and help women gain financial independence are bringing about this change. Society is also opening up to accept more women in workforce.

Graphic: Paras Jain/Mint
Graphic: Paras Jain/Mint

What’s driving PAN ownership by women?

One reason for women to have PAN cards is to pay income tax, say financial sector experts. Another could be to help get concessional stamp duty rates in some states for jointly held property. All these reasons signify greater participation of women in financial transactions. But there is a long way to go. The periodic labour force survey released earlier this year shows the literacy rate of men in rural and urban areas is higher than that of women; 55.95% of men and only 17.55% of women are in the labour force.

How do states fare in gender equality?

The only states that made some improvement in gender equality are Kerala and Sikkim. Among Union territories, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and Chandigarh also improved in this regard, according to a NITI Aayog index of states based on their performance on sustainable development goals. The worst performers are Bihar, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh. At the end of March, 435.2 million people had PAN (including 2,262 transgenders)—about a third of the more than 1.3 billion population.