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Women & their role in economy

Published: 14th Mar, 2022


Every year, International Women’s Day on 8 March gives us a lot to cheer about—but it gives even more to introspect. Despite gradual gains over the decades, Indian women’s economic well-being and financial independence remains a far cry, continually hindered by stubborn structural and societal barriers.

This brief aims to analyse the role of women in economy and also assess the present challenges and way to improve the overall situation.


  • To spread the message of gender equality, the United Nations observance of International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8.
  • The theme for this year’s Women’s Day is: “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”.
  • 2022 is pivotal for achieving gender equality in the context of climate change, and environment and disaster risk reduction.
  • Today, women are the agent of change in several fields. One buzzing idea where women business leaders have scripted great success.
    • As the name suggests, the circular economy lays special emphasis on reusing and recycling products. Recycling leads to optimum use of resources.
    • But executing the idea is easier said than done.

Consider this: The world generates 2.01 billion tonnes of solid waste annually, with at least 33% of that — an extremely conservatively estimate — is not managed in an environmentally safe manner.


Contribution of women in economy

  • Women in India represent 29 percent of the labour force, down from 35 percent in 2004.
  • According to the World Bank, Indian women’s participation in the formal economy is among the lowest in the world—only parts of the Arab world fare worse. 
  • Agriculture: Even when they comprise almost 40 percent of agricultural labour, they control only 9 percent of land in India.
  • Contribution to GDP: It is therefore unsurprising that at 17 percent, India has a lower share of women’s contribution to the GDP than the global average of 37 percent.
  • More than half of the work done by women in India is unpaid, and almost all of it is informal and unprotected.
  • Women are not well represented in most sectors, including business leaders.
  • Women are also shut out of the formal financial system. Nearly half of India’s women do not have a bank or savings accounts for their own use, and 60 percent of women have no valuable assets to their name.
  • Women in India also face great physical insecurity. The rate of crimes against women in India stands at 53.9 percent in India.

Women, Business and the Law 2022

  • The World Bank’s Women, Business and the Law 2022” report, outlines the importance of women’s economic empowerment and involvement in business.
  • The annual study, which looks into “laws and regulations affecting women’s economic opportunity,” scores and ranks 190 countries in eight areas: mobility, pay, parenthood, assets, workplace, marriage, entrepreneurship, and pensions.
  • According to the 2022 report, “nearly 2.4 billion women globally don’t have [the] same economic rights as men.”

Positive impacts on Indian Economy of women’s economic empowerment

  • The economic impact of achieving gender equality in India is estimated to be US$700 billion of added GDP by 2025.
  • The IMF estimates that equal participation of women in the workforce will increase India’s GDP by 27 percent.
  • There are also social benefits to empowering women.
  • Women spend 90 percent of their income on their families, and economically empowered women boost demand, have healthier and better-educated children, and raise human development levels.
  • It has been reported that profits increase when efforts to empower women in emerging markets are made.

Sustainable Development Goals that can be achieved by economically empowering women:

  • SDG 1: No poverty
  • SDG 4: Quality Education
  • SDG 5: Gender Equality
  • SDG 8: Decent work and economic growth
  • SDG 10: Reduced inequality

Initiatives by the Government

  • The Government of India’s MUDRA scheme to support micro and small enterprises and direct benefit transfers under the Jan Dhan Yojana seeks to empower women.
  • Women entrepreneurs account for about 78 percent of the total number of borrowers under MUDRA.

Potential Areas of Focus:

  • The private sector and business community will be crucial in helping bridge the gap between skills and jobs and enable access to decent work for women.
  • Vocational and technical training, life skills and financial literacy programmes for women to help them develop marketable skills and better decision-making abilities cannot be undertaken in a meaningful way without the involvement of industry.
  • Companies can also invest in women entrepreneurs through microfinance, and bring their goods and services into supply chains.
  • Enhancing women’s access to the internet and ICT can create a merging market of connected women who can be linked to business opportunities.
  • The private sector can invest in women’s security against violence at home and in public spaces, and take steps to ensure their mobility through inclusive transport.

Activities undertaken by UN India Business Forum to economically empower women?

  • UNIBF agreed that increasing women’s participation in the workforce would have a direct, positive impact on productivity and profitability.
  • A consensus has developed at the UNIBF that gender equality in the workforce is now a business imperative.
  • Best practices within the industry are shared in the UNIBF to leverage existing platforms to educate the industry on the benefits of gender equality in the workforce and identify role models to “grow the tribe”.
  • The UNIBF has agreed on the following next steps:
    • Encourage more CEOs to pledge their support towards gender equality.
    • Identify mentors who can lead other organisations in their sector to adopt gender equal policies
    • Create ways to increase brand/ PR value for organisations that encourage women in their workforce
    • Enable cross pollination of best practices by:
      • Leveraging existing platforms and content
      • Identifying role models
      • Storytelling
      • Sharing success stories and policies

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