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At helm of G20, India is shifting narrative to women-led development

Jul 15, 2023 05:04 PM IST

Under India’s presidency, there has been a shift in the narrative to foster conversations around women-led development, rather than just development of women

NEW DELHI: Women-led development forms the core of India’s G20 presidency. While India will play a significant role in bringing stakeholders together to deliberate upon issues of gender disparity, it is not the first one to do so. Earlier G20 presidencies have adopted policy initiatives and mechanisms to foster gender equality. However, under India’s presidency, there has been a shift in the narrative to foster conversations around women-led development, rather than just development of women. HT takes a look at the progress of past G20 initiatives and sheds light on the imminent challenges faced by women. Here are five charts that explain in detail.

HT takes a look at the progress of past G20 initiatives and sheds light on the imminent challenges faced by women (File Photo)
HT takes a look at the progress of past G20 initiatives and sheds light on the imminent challenges faced by women (File Photo)

More women in G20 participate in labour markets than 2012

At the 2014 summit in Brisbane, G20 leaders committed to reducing the gender gap in labour force participation by 25% by the end of 2025 (from 2012 levels). A set of key principles was agreed upon to improve the quality of women’s employment. So how far have the nations progressed?

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Data from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) shows that the female labour force participation rate (LFPR) has risen across all G20 economies, except China since 2012; LFPR is the share of the working age population between the ages of 15 and 64 years who are part of the total labour force. Since male LFPR has also seen a marginal decline or rise over the same period, the ratio of female to male LFPR can give a better idea on the extent of gender disparity in the labour markets. On an average, the ratio of female LFPR to male LFPR for most G20 economies, rose to 75.3% in 2021, from 70.6% in 2012. The latest comparable estimates are available for 2021 for most G20 countries, therefore China and the EU were excluded in this analysis. The impact of the pandemic on women’s participation was limited to a handful of countries within G20. Countries such as Brazil, Canada, and Turkey, saw a marginal decrease in this ratio in 2021, from 2019.

Reducing gender gap in labour markets remains a challenge

There exist significant variations in the progress achieved by G20 economies in improving the labour market outcomes for women. While advanced nations have narrowed their gender gap to levels that was more than expected, it remains a challenging goal for those countries where the gender gap is significantly large. The former group includes Japan, United Kingdom, Australia, and France, and the latter includes Turkey, India, Mexico, and Indonesia.

Time devoted to unpaid work remains high

Any policy aimed at increasing the female LFPR needs to particularly focus on reducing the gender imbalance in the time devoted to unpaid care work. This is because women face a disproportionate burden of domestic chores and caregiving activities, thereby limiting their engagement in paid employment activities. This is where time-use data of G20 economies from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) comes in handy.

Women’s time devoted to unpaid work ranges from 3 hrs and 8 mins per day in Argentina, to 5 hrs and 31 mins per day in Mexico. In contrast, men’s time devoted to unpaid work ranges from 39 mins per day in Argentina, to 2 hrs and 52 mins per day in Australia. For India, this figure was almost 5 hrs per day for women, and 1 hr and 37 mins per day for men. Moreover, countries that are unable to show significant progress in reducing the gender gap (as mentioned earlier) are also the ones with high incidence of unpaid activities on women.

Gender pay gap remains high

Women continue to earn substantially less than men in most G20 economies as per OECD data. It is not possible to comment on gender wage gap for all G20 economies for the lack of comparable estimates for China, Russia, Indonesia, South Africa, India, and Saudi Arabia; Gender wage gap is defined as the difference between median earnings of men and women relative to medium earnings of men. In terms of median full-time earnings, women earned between 30 and 35% less than men in Korea, while similar figure was 10% or less in Turkey, Italy, Argentina, and Brazil.

Modest progress in women climbing to leadership posts

The G20 Alliance for the Empowerment and Progression of Women’s Economic Representation (G20 EMPOWER), launched under the Japanese presidency in 2019, works to accelerate women’s leadership and empowerment in the private sector. India’s G20 presidency is expected to carry this forward. While it is too early to comment on its progress, its importance can be best seen through the progress of G20 nations on this front. A comparison of the latest ILO numbers with 2012 shows that the proportion of women in senior and middle management positions rose marginally for most nations, except France (fell by 6.1%), Canada (fell by 2%) and Italy (no change). Only three nations – Turkey (20.7%), India (16.5%) and Japan (14.7%) – recorded a percentage increase in this number in 25 to 45% range. To be sure, this comparison excludes China, Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Indonesia, for the lack of data.

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