Gender Disparities among the Indian Labour and Nobel Prize in Economics 2023


Women’s participation in the Labour market is crucial for the economic growth and development of the country. Changing the trends in the economy plays a crucial role in increasing the participation of women in every field. As per the data published by the UNDP 2021-22, the average labour force participation of men is 68.4 %, and women 52.6 % in very high human development countries. When it comes to developing country, the labour force participation rate of men is 72.8 % and women is 44.4 %. Now, when it comes to India, the labour force participation rate of women in India is only 19.2 % as compared to 70.1 % of men (UNDP 2021). The situation of women in the labour market has been proved by the Nobel Laureate in the Economic Sciences, 2023 Claudia Goldin, who has provided the first advanced understanding of women in the United States labour Market. She has used centuries of data from the US market to demonstrate the changing trends of the gender gap and employment opportunities in the US labour market. 

In India, the role of women in the labour market is not at par with men in terms of earning and employment opportunities. Even though industrialisation, modernisation, economic growth and development in primary, secondary and tertiary sectors, and rising women participation in every field, still there is disparity among them on various grounds such as the labour market, education, service sector, health sector and many more. 

When it comes to the Indian labour market, the situation of women is not different as compared with the US labour market. Even the situation of women in the Indian labour market is worse as compared to the US market in year 2020. According to the Nobel laureates, Esther Dufloas and Abhijit Banerjee (TOI, 2023), the US labour force participation of women in 2020 was 47 % and it was 25 % in 1920, hundred years ago. According to them, the situation of women’s participation in the Indian labour market in 2021 is the same as it was a hundred years ago in the United States of America. The Gender Inequality Index (GII) shows that India ranked 122nd out of 191st countries in the world in the year 2021 (UNDP. 2021). 

As per the World Economic Forum which introduced the Global Gender Gap Index first time in the year 2006. The main intention behind this index is to benchmark the progress of gender parity across the globe based on four parameters: economic opportunities, education, health, and political leadership. India ranked 127 out of 146 countries in terms of the Global Gender Gap Index (GGGI) (WEF, 2023). Another parameter to measure the gender gap between males and females in representation in parliaments, in terms women’s representation in the Indian parliament is only 13. 4 % out of the total members. and labour force participation rate of women is only 19.2 % as compared to 70.1 % of male participation (UNDP 2021).  These data show that there are huge disparities among the women in India. The kind of work published by the Nobel prize winners in 2023 is directly relevant to Indian women’s participation in the labour market.

Understanding the trajectory of the labour market is essential to addressing these disparities. Nobel Laureate Claudia Goldin’s extensive research on the US labour market illuminates the changing gender gaps and employment opportunities over centuries. Similarly, comprehending India’s economic trends is vital to crafting effective policies.

The Indian government has taken significant steps to empower women economically. Various schemes and initiatives have been launched to enhance female participation in the labour market. However, the effectiveness of these programs must be continuously evaluated and augmented to bridge the existing gaps.

Several factors contribute to the low participation of Indian women in the labor market. Societal norms, lack of access to quality education and healthcare, and limited representation in decision-making roles are significant obstacles. Additionally, the prevalent gender wage gap and workplace harassment further discourage women from actively seeking employment.

However, amid these challenges lie immense opportunities. Education plays a pivotal role in empowering women. Investments in education, particularly in rural areas, can equip women with the skills necessary to participate meaningfully in the workforce. Additionally, promoting entrepreneurship among women can lead to the creation of job opportunities and economic growth.

The active participation of women in the labour market is not merely a matter of gender equality; it is a prerequisite for a thriving economy. By addressing the challenges faced by women in the labour market and providing them with equal opportunities, India can harness the full potential of its workforce, leading to robust economic growth and development.

As India moves forward, it is imperative to strengthen existing initiatives, invest in education and healthcare, and create an enabling environment for women to thrive professionally. By empowering its women, India can pave the way for a brighter, more prosperous future, where every citizen, regardless of gender, contributes significantly to the nation’s progress.

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Dr. Mahendra R. Mishra

Dr. Mahendra R. Mishra

Assistant Professor – Economics K. J. Somaiya College of Arts and Commerce University of Mumbai, Mumbai

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