The number of women enrolling at different levels of education has increased over the years but when faced with dropouts from the workforce, it presents a regressive paradox.
Even as we celebrated International Women’s Day last month, it was somewhat eclipsed by the National Sample Survey Office’s (NSSO) latest job survey. It points towards a rather disturbing trend whereby 23.3 per cent women above the age of 15 years have dropped out of the workforce in India in 2017-18. The report is yet to be released but it is already creating quite a stir.
The number of women enrolling at different levels of education have increased over the years but when faced with dropouts from the workforce, it presents a regressive paradox. It indicates that while women are studying, they are either leaving the workforce early or are not coming back to it after taking a break.
The news does not portend well for the economy. Economic development is directly proportional to the productivity of the population. When a sizeable chunk of the productive population is not engaged in gainful employment, the economy cannot grow at a speed that it is capable of.
Besides economic growth, the trend is also detrimental to women and their empowerment. Financial independence is an important aspect of empowering women so that they can live a fulfilling life and withstand unjust social pressures.
Marriage, maternity and women being primary caregivers in the families are some of the reasons that can be cited. However, these are only a part of the problem and deeper analysis is required to understand the underlying factors that lead to women leaving their jobs.
There is a question that begs our attention at this point – What can we do and how can we reverse this trend? The answer does not lie with a single group of people.
We need a positive collaboration amongst different stakeholders to understand the issue at hand. The civil society, educators, employers, economists and women themselves need to come together to deliberate. Hopefully, a collaborative effort from everyone involved will help us in finding a pragmatic solution.
Dr. C.G. Krishnadas Nair