In its latest report, “The power of parity: Advancing women’s equality in India”, released on Monday, McKinsey Global Institute has detailed the benefits that can accrue to India if it focuses on improving gender parity in the economy. The report states: “India could boost its GDP by $0.7 trillion in 2025… This translates into 1.4 per cent per year of incremental GDP growth for India.” The bulk of this gain — about 70 per cent — can come from raising India’s female labour-force participation rate by 10 percentage points, from 31 per cent at present to 41 per cent in 2025. This is expected to bring 68 million more women into the economy over the next 10 years. There is much to be gained by enabling greater participation of women in the economy — compared to several other countries, India is a laggard.
The share of regional output generated by women is only 17 per cent in India, which is marginally lower than in the Middle East and North Africa (at 18 per cent), and way below the contribution in North America and Oceania (at 41 per cent). On the Gender Parity Score, which measures the level of gender inequality, India is pegged at 0.48 — a score categorised as “extremely high”. From the policy perspective, the sustainable solution may lie not so much in reservations and quotas at the top, as in greater equality in society beginning at the bottom.
Essentially, this requires the government to ensure that the crucial enablers of economic opportunity are identified and addressed — the maternal mortality rate, gap in education levels, financial inclusion, and digital inclusion, among others. For instance, according to the McKinsey report, “on average, women with no educational attainment express a 30 per cent stronger preference for a boy child over a girl, compared with a 3 per cent stronger preference expressed by women with tertiary or higher education.” In general, greater equality for women in society invariably carries over into a more equal workplace.
Data also reveals wide variations across states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, on the one hand, and Sikkim and Mizoram on the other. This implies India needs a policy framework that not only targets a wide variety of measures but also has a differentiated focus in states. While the popularity of slogans like “Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao” is heartening, the truth also is that little has been done to implement the recommendations of the high-level committee on the status of women that were submitted in June.