Farah Zehra

On one hand the women are having more and more employment opportunities due to various incentives and assistance by the Government but the outcome is far from encouraging. In fact the women participation in workforce in India during the last decade has fallen down by as much as 10 %. The reason is : social norms have remained rigid as ever and because of this, all efforts to boost women employment have proved to be futile.



The women population accounts around 48.5% of the total population of India. And the women workforce is just 28% of the total workforce. To find out the reasons for this dismal situation, a research study was undertaken by a team of Dr Rohini Pande, Mohammed Kamal Professor of Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School along with her co-researchers in Madhya Pradesh.

The study by Dr. Pande employed several interventions like providing women their own bank account as wages under the MNREGA program were paid into the bank account of the household head. The experiment also included imparting such women some training to enhance their financial literacy. Though the study is under way, but some indicators have emerged. Women who have been part of all the interventions have shown maximum positive change like they worked more both under and outside MGNREGA and received 25% more earnings with 60% higher bank balances.

Ms Pande also worked with Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) Bank, where a two day training program was intended for a selected group of women. The program was specifically designed to teach them the business know-how which was later compared to a group of women not subject to this training program. The experiment produced some striking results, where the women undergone training were more likely to take out a loan compared to women who had not taken the course. Also, women who participated along with their friends showed more zeal and vigor in expending their loans for business purposes, while women who participated alone expend more on their household expenses. Most astonishingly, women who participated with their peers had higher household incomes later.

The experiment inferred that when women have a say in their household decisions, they tend to bring a change by networking with other women as well. Most significantly, they can influence household decisions, like investment decisions or so.

Where is the gap?

It is surprising to know that where there has been a rise of GDP by 5 folds, women labor force has lowered from 37 percent to 28 percent. Research studies suggest that “social norms” are often a hindering factor of women employment in India. The norms enforced by women’s parents, husbands and in laws, where they even need their permission to go out for work.

The Probable Measures!!

Through this extensive research, Dr Pande analyzed the whole situation and came up with some measures that could improve women employment rate. The first and foremost measure is to give women control over the money they earn, exactly the way done in the experiment. Apart from this, there should be an emphasis on women social networks, where they could influence others through social interactions.

Some Important facts

With 28.4% of female rural workers of total workforce, more women work in Rural areas as compared to urban.

 40.5% of all enrolled PhDs are women in India.