While stories of India’s gender gap have been in the media spotlight in past years, a recent census shows the depth of the inequality. India is rated 101 out of a 136 country survey for gender disparity, with lower economic opportunities and a lower literacy rate. With a population of over a billion, nearly 160 million women are estimated to be restricted to domestic work, many of whom are of working age.
With a restricted labor force in India, the capacity for growth and development is hindered. Additionally, the options women do have are limited by unequal access to education and training. While this problem has been acknowledged, its scope was underestimated. Sociologists hope that governmental encouragement of women in the workforce can help reduce illiteracy and poverty among women.
However, even women who are employed are more likely to be “vulnerably employed” than their male counterparts. This term, used by an ILO study to describe nearly 84 percent of South Asian women, refers to the risk these workers face: seasonal employment and more easily terminated services leaves them with little job security. Additionally, these workers perform mostly domestic services, a trend which consistently reinforces the patriarchal hierarchy in India.
With job security being a problem for women, the government is hoping that opening up more opportunities in the public sector, now dominated by men, can have an equalizing effect for the women of India. With women and girls being among the most disadvantaged in the world, employing them and fostering growth in education and literacy is in the best interest for 21st century India.
For as large of a nation as it is, the hindrances on the labor force have not allowed India to realize its potential. For the generations of women now and those in the future, women must have the opportunity to come out of the domestic sphere and into the working world.
– Kristin Ronzi