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Analysing Indian inequality from a gender lens

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  • Published
    12th Jan, 2022

World Inequality Report 2022 highlighted the grave gender inequality in India, which is further accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.


World Inequality Report 2022 highlighted the grave gender inequality in India, which is further accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Gender inequality is one of the oldest and most pervasive forms of inequality in the world and as a result, social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been far from gender neutral.

  • As per Inequality Report 2022, while women represent about 50 percent of the population, they earn only about one-third of the labour income for it.
  • WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report 2021 places India amongst countries with the largest Gender Gaps in Economic participation and opportunity. Female Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) has declined from 27 % in 2010 to 22 % in 2020.

Though ‘women’ come from varying socio-economic, cultural, and geographical backgrounds, the pandemic disrupted an already skewed ratio in educational opportunities, access to finance, wage disparities, and other social constraints for them demographically.


What is gender inequality?

  • Gender inequality is the presence of inequality between male and females in the economic sector which is caused by various economic and non-economic factors.

Recent Findings regarding gender inequality-

Though gender inequality is an old phenomenon, the recent findings regarding gender inequality in India can be seen from the following points-

  • More time spent on unpaid work: As per reports, women spend almost twice as much time providing unpaid care work such as cleaning, cooking, providing care to the elderly, fetching water, childcare, etc.
  • Labour Market scarring- It is a concept used by ‘Global Gender Gap Report 2021’ in which temporary limitation of in-person work has caused permanent and long-lasting effects on women’s chances at decent employment in future.
  • “State of Working India” report- According to the report, the imposition of lockdowns has disproportionately affected the feminised sectors, such as the care economy and the gig economy. Only 19 percent of women were able to continue their employment while a vast 47 percent faced a job loss permanently.
  • South Asia is hardest hit due to the prevailing social and cultural norms around women’s work, aggravated by several other factors.

Impact of gender inequality-

The presence of inequality affects not only women but also other stakeholders like family, society and nation as a whole. The various impact are-

  • On women-
    • Psychological impact- The presence of barriers affects moral and intellectual growth of women and gains their due place in society.
    • Social mobility- As economic mobility also affects social mobility, the persistent income gap affects female social mobility, and they are still treated as subordinate sex.
  • On nation and society-
    • Low GDP- Incomplete participation of women will lead to underestimation of India’s GDP as care activities are not accounted for in GDP.
    • It also creates barriers to happiness in the individual and the society which is also reflected in poor ranking of India in Global Happiness index.

Challenges in bridging gender inequality-

Though there is a need to bridge gender inequality, there are several challenges that acts as restraint in this direction. Some factors are deep rooted in Indian society and many are recent challenges. These can be seen as-

Social challenges-

  • The social norm of gendered differentiation of labour, thus, makes it harder for women to enter and remain in the labour market. Women are trained in care activities and cooking skills whereas men are trained in economic activities.
  • The conundrum of unpaid care work is only increasing in India given the shrinking family sizes and resulting time poverty faced disproportionately by women.
  • Women are, thus, under the “double burden” of performing paid and unpaid labour
  • Women are considered subordinate to men due to the patriarchal nature of Indian society.
  • Most of the women are socially and economically dependent on men.
  • Economic challenges-
    • Most women are offered work in the informal sector, which categorically provides no protection of labour laws, or social benefits like pension, paid sick leave, maternity leave.
    • There also exists an income difference between men and women in almost every sector.
    • Factors such as harassment and violence at public spaces or during commute to the workspace further affects working conditions for women.
    • The Delloitte Global Survey suggests LGBT+ women are much more likely to have experienced jokes of a sexual nature in a workplace.
  • Political reasons-
    • Lack of political intention in bridging gender inequality. For instance, the proposed laws for women reservation in state and union legislatures are pending.
    • Despite the presence of provision of gender budgeting, there is a lack of regular evaluation of laws, rules and schemes.
    • Less awareness among women about government schemes and measures.

Steps taken by the state-

The government at various levels has taken various measures to bridge gender inequality in the society. These steps are-

  • Political empowerment-
    • Reservation for women in panchayats and municipalities.
    • Proposed Reservation for women in state and central legislative assemblies.
    • ‘Gender budgeting’ has been introduced as a separate vertical in the annual budgeting by the union government.
  • Social empowerment-
    • Legal provisions to empower women have been taken such as banning dowry, minimum age for marriage and creating awareness about constitutional provisions and legal rights.
    • As observed in the Gender gap report (by WEF), the gender gap in primary and secondary education has been largely bridged.
  • Economic empowerment-
    • According to Article 39 of Indian constitution (DPSP), the State shall strive to secure Equal pay for equal work for both men and women.
    • Entry barriers have been removed for women in many areas such as combat forces and working in night shifts etc.
    • Schemes for education and employment have been initiated like ‘Beti bachao Beti Padhao’ and ‘Stand up India’ scheme.

More needed-

Though various steps have been taken and some progress has been made, many more steps are needed in this direction. Few steps can be-

  • Social security mechanism-
    • There is a need to enhance the social security mechanisms for informal workers with a special focus on women.
  • Skilling and reskilling-
    • Upskilling women for ‘hard professions’ and adopting a ‘care lens’ is essential for defeminising care work and would contribute to redistributing it equally amongst family members irrespective of their gender.
  • Political steps-
    • It is also important to create gender sensitive fiscal policies and educate the masses about the criticality of rising inequalities and formulate a framework of labour laws to sustain in the neoliberal world.
    • There is a need to take affirmative steps such as- reservation in education, employment and in the legislature.
  • Increasing awareness-
    • There is also a need to create awareness about laws, regulations and government schemes so that effective utilisation of policies can be done.


Women comprise half of India’s population, thus their role and contribution should be recognised and inequality should be bridged by breaking social and economic barriers. To become a developed society, it is essential that Indian society takes everyone in the direction of prosperity.


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