New Delhi: India is fast bridging the gender gap in economic activities and financial transactions but it may take some time before women equal men in ownership of Permanent Account Number (PAN), which is compulsory for a host of financial transactions.

Data available with the Income Tax department show that the number of women PAN holders is growing faster than that of men who hold the ten-digit identification number issued by the department. In the year ended March 2019, 31.3 million women were added to the list of PAN holders, a jump of over 240% from the 9.2 million added in the year before. On the other hand, 34.5 million men were added to the list of PAN database in FY19, an increase of 213% from the 11 million added a year ago.

Not only that, the total number of women holding PAN has been steadily rising over the last few years from 34.63% in the year ended March 2017 to 35.3% in FY18 to 37.16% in FY19, according to data from the tax department. Meanwhile, the share of men PAN holders declined from 65.37% in FY17 to 62.84% in FY19.

The rise in the number of women holding PAN makes for a significant social commentary considering that a person having taxable income requires a PAN. This alpha-numeric identification number is crucial for both tax payments as well as for a host of banking transactions, issuance of debit and credit cards, and payments to other parties. For a large number of transactions above 50,000 including purchase of mutual fund, foreign exchange or hotel payment in cash, PAN is compulsory. It is, however, not a pre-requisite for opening a basic savings bank account.

Bringing women into the economic mainstream has been a priority for the government with Prime Minister Narendra Modi leading a drive to promote education of the girl child.

At the end of March 2019, 435.2 million people had PAN, including 2,262 transgenders, accounting for about a third of India’s over 1.3 billion population. According to the periodic labour force survey released by the statistics ministry earlier this year, literacy rate among men in rural and urban areas is higher than that among women. India has a sex ratio of 956 females against 1000 males.

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