Created on: February 08, 2013 Last Updated: February 11, 2013
For an economy to grow, it needs many things: natural resources, an entrepreneurial spirit, a stable marketplace and an educated workforce, among others. It’s also clear that if half the population of a country is effectively shut out of the workforce, that will limit a nation’s ability to strengthen its position in the global market and grow its economy.
India’s recent rapid economic ascent has been widely celebrated. As a nation, it has the advantages of a rapidly expanding middle class and the desire to become a technological participant in the modern global marketplace. This has opened the doors to foreign investment and a rapidly improving place in which multinational corporations like to do business.
India’s self-limiting behavior
Yet, in the words of “Bloomberg Businessweek,” “India is in the midst of a moral crisis.” The recent attack on (and death of) a young female student riding a bus in India is just one face of that crisis. The bigger issue, as the magazine notes, is the “astonishing low level of participation” by women in its business sector.
Just contrast India with China. In a report by Gallup of the two nations’ development from 2009 to 2012, it found that “Chinese women are taking part in their labor force in vastly greater numbers than Indian women are. Gender gaps are also much narrower in China than India.”
While India has the second largest labor pool (478 million) in the world, only 24 percent of it is made up of women, with only 5 percent of those women holding senior-level posts. Contrast that with China in which 70 percent of the workforce is women or world figures, which indicate that 20 percent of senior-level jobs are filled by women.
This conscious exclusion of women is something that India can no longer afford, particularly if it wishes to continue along the path of economic development. Says Lakshmi Puri, executive director of UN Women, “India’s growth rate could make a quantum jump of 4.2 percentage points if women were given greater opportunity to contribute to professional life.”
Gender gap in India leads to low ranking
Just where Indian women place on the economic ladder has been highlighted by the “2012 Global Gender Gap Report,” published by the World Economic Forum. Of the 135 nations examined in the study, India ranks 105th overall (placing alongside nations such as Burkina Faso and Cambodia). Its score would
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