Three senior scholars at the Harvard Kennedy School, US, have said in a recent scrutiny that, while India “boasts superior rates of women serving in political office compared to other emerging economies”, yet the country not only “lags well behind its competitors in its rate of women’s labour force participation” but also letting women to go out of home alone.
Pointing towards cultural reasons behind the lag, the scholars state, “Using two rounds of the Indian Human Development Survey (IHDS), we found that 79.9% of women reported not being allowed to visit the health centre without permission from their husbands or other family members. In 2012, 33% were not allowed to go alone to seek medical care, a marginal improvement over 2005 (35%).”
“Nationally, the IHDS survey also shows that 51.7% of women think it is usual in the community for a husband to beat his wife if she leaves the home without telling him”, scholars say.
They add, “Even when a woman does have the freedom to leave the home, distance is still a pertinent constraint. In a sample of Skill India participants, 62% of unemployed women reported that they were willing to migrate for work, but 70% said they would feel unsafe working away from home.”
Pointing out that “the nation just swore in its 16th female Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti”, the report states, “India is well beyond the point when economists would expect that high numbers of women would begin participating in the labour force.” It adds, “Instead, 25 million women have left the Indian labour force over the past 10 years.” “Today, only 27% of Indian women are in the labour force, the second-lowest rate of female labour-force participation in South Asia after Pakistan. And while that country’s female labour-force participation is rising, India’s is falling, the scholars say.The scholars who involved in the research are Rohini Pande, Jennifer Johnson and Eric Dodge. While Pande is professor of public policy and co-director of Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) at the Harvard Kennedy School, Johnson is programme associate managing EPoD’s India programmes, and Dodge is EPoD’s Data Analytics Lead.
“Limited mobility is one of the key challenges many women confront when they set out to find a job”, they point out, pointing out this has happened despite the fact that “India’s road network now spans more than 4.69 million km, a 39% increase over 10 years earlier.”
“Between 2007 and 2011 alone, an additional 600,074 km were laid. The rate of car ownership is also rising, with more than 2 million cars sold last year in India, up 9.8% over 2014”, the scholars say, adding, “Public transportation systems are expanding, too.”
“National Sample Survey data highlight that disparity, and a pilot survey we conducted of rural youth in Bhopal and Sehore backs it up: 91% of below poverty line, female respondents (aged 18-25) think women should go out of the house to work – yet nearly 70% of these women were unemployed in the previous year”, they add.