Saundarya Verma, Hidayatullah National Law University
Even today, in the liberal and democratic age of equal rights and equal opportunity, the women of India continue to fight to achieve equal opportunity, not only in terms of a societal standing but also in the field of work and employment. The working sector of our country is still struggling to give the women opportunities that are equal to men. On international measures of gender equality, India scores low on women’s overall health and survival and ability to access economic opportunities.1 The economic engagement of women is related to her and her family's well being. A continuous decline in the participation of women in economic activities, especially in the labour force, is a cause for great concern as it reflects deterioration in the well being of women.
The World Bank quoted "no country can develop and achieve its full potential if half of its population is locked in non-remunerative, less productive and non-economic activities.” This immensely powerful statement denotes that it is impossible for a country to prosper without its female population. It was observed in a report by McKinsey Global Institute that if women and men participated in the Indian economy at equal levels, annual GDP of India could increase by 60 per cent its projected GDP by 2025.
Considering the fact that the education of young women is now almost at par with men's, it would be ignorant to overlook that half of that educated population is not participating in any economic activity. Thus, it shows that India is somewhere lacking in providing women with the opportunity they need to be able to partake in the economy. These conclusions show that mere education is not enough upliftment. The women of this country need more.
Women in India make up only 24 per cent of the paid labour force as compared to the global average which stands at 40 per cent. The reasons behind this could be plenty but the solution lies in policy decisions made by the state. For instance, the recent amendment in the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961, has made workplaces more female friendly by adding provisions that further aid mothers. Steps like this one will encourage more women to participate on par with men in the labour force the number will eventually increase. Moreover, providing women with these benefits is not only essential for the economy but is also their right.