Why Aren’t India’s Women Working- The New York Times Op-ed

By Rohini Pandey, Charity Troyer Moore

Usually, economic growth in lower-middle-income countries creates more jobs for women. But as India’s economy grew at an average of 7 percent between 2004 and 2011, its female labor force participation fell by seven percentage points, to 24 percent from 31 percent. Despite rapidly increasing educational attainment for girls and declining fertility, the International Labor Organization in 2013 ranked India 11th from the bottom in the world in female labor-force participation.

Research shows why this matters: Working, and the control of assets it allows, lowers rates of domestic violence and increases women’s decision-making in the household. And an economy where all the most able citizens can enter the labor force is more efficient and grows faster.

For India’s government to maintain the country’s progress into the ranks of middle-income countries, it needs to understand why female labor force participation is falling, and develop an effective policy response.

Data shows a complex and puzzling picture: Women are becoming more educated but, simultaneously, the positive labor market effects typically associated with higher education are declining.

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