More women in the workforce are crucial to economic growth - Hindustan Times
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More women in the workforce are crucial to economic growth

ByHindustan Times
Mar 08, 2023 09:13 AM IST

The article has been authored by Neelam Gupta, founder & CEO of AROH Foundation.

India is aiming to be the $5 trillion economy. It is also sitting on a goldmine of raw talent in the form of rural women, waiting to be nurtured, developed, and added to the growing human resource pool. A big economic opportunity for India lies in creating a competent and trained female manpower. Conventional wisdom suggests that in a growing economy, as job opportunities increase and education levels rise, more women enter the paid workforce. The Indian experience, however, has been exactly the opposite. Since the liberalisation of the economy, which began in 1991, India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has grown at about six to seven per cent per year. Education of Indian women has risen; fertility rates have fallen; and access to electricity, cooking gas, and water has improved. However, women’s labor force participation rate (LFPR) has fallen from 42.7% in 2004–05 to 23.3% in 2017–18. Especially, this decline is more marked falling from 330 to 253 for rural women, according to data from the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation’s National Sample Survey (NSS), 2014. Especially as the pandemic continues to rage in the country, our economy has taken a massive hit, and many have been left without jobs and livelihoods, unemployment rates are at an all-time high and the most affected are those from the rural areas, especially the women and so empowering these female rural youth, who constitute a little more than 48% of the country’s total population as per Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011 (SECC) shall be a stepping stone for India towards being the trillion dollar economy.

International Women's Day: More women in the workforce are crucial to economic growth(Unsplash) PREMIUM
International Women's Day: More women in the workforce are crucial to economic growth(Unsplash)

Apart from the technical skills, they have to be trained in cognitive and interpersonal skills to adapt to a technology-enabled world. Uttar Pradesh has the highest absolute number of workers - both men and women - 498.5 lakh and about 159.7 lakh respectively, however it also accounts for the largest gender gap of about 338.8 lakh people. The true potential of our demographic dividend cannot be harnessed if we do not ensure equal participation of women in economy by skilling, up skilling and reskilling them, and contribute to national development, an area where AROH Foundation has forayed and established itself as lead player in this arena.

AROH has been implementing Holistic Rural Development Project (HRDP) n 18 villages of Uttar Pradesh in CSR association with HDFC Bank since 2016. The project envisages women empowerment as a crucial building block of rural development in the villages of three districts of Firozabad, Budaun and Bulandshahr. HRDP has strategically designed a framework for uplifting socio-economic stature of around 10,000 women covered under the HRDP blanket. HRDP has adopted a lifecycle approach and is implementing an exemplary and pioneering range of women-empowerment initiatives to address myriad issues faced by girls and women who stand a chance to gain from the interventions being rolled out in their area. Starting from the maternal healthcare and awareness during pregnancy to infant care, education of the girl child from pre-schooling to high school education, vocational training and skilling for economic growth, providing access to water and sanitation, improving literacy levels of women, raising their awareness against social ills like child marriage, dowry, alcoholism, oppression, and improving their confidence and self-esteem through programmes of life skills, financial inclusion, etc

Various initiatives have been taken up to empower women through formation 150 self-help groups (SHGs) and individual enterprises benefiting around 6,000 women to bring sustainability to the lives and help them develop in a way where they work with each other for the welfare of the whole community. The women SHGs are also converged with government schemes like NRLM to ensure their linkages and sustainability. With regular capacity building and awareness counseling, the aspirations of rural women, increasingly educated and exposed to paid labour opportunities under the MGNREGA, have shifted away from unpaid agricultural work on family farms toward more formal, paid work.

Neelam Gupta, founder president of AROH says, “Alongside emerging need to transform India’s youth into a skilled workforce, low female participation in Indian economy has been a major challenge. According to a report by Deloitte Empowering Women and Girls in India for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the female labour force participation in India has fallen to 26% in 2018 from 36.7% in 2005. The global Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development through its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) embody a roadmap for progress that is sustainable and leaves no one behind. Achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment is integral to each of the 17 goals. The benefits of skilling and empowering Indian women amount to a staggering 27% increase in GDP.”

The article has been authored by Neelam Gupta, founder & CEO of AROH Foundation.

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