Women Empowerment is a sine qua non for Economic Development

Women voters will outstrip men from 2029 onwards and almost at par in 2024

Dr. Soumya Kanti Ghosh, 

Group Chief Economic Adviser, 

State Bank of India

Mumbai, December 15, 2023: There is a bidirectional relationship between economic development and women’s empowerment, defined as improving the ability of women to access the constituents of development—in particular health, education, earning opportunities etc. with thrust on identical representation across multiple pivots. 

Women’s Economic Empowerment is always a Pathway Towards Sustainable and Inclusive Development 

In one direction, development alone can play a major role in driving down inequality between men and women; in the other direction, continuing discrimination against women can hinder development beyond comprehension. Empowerment of half of the population, in other words, can accelerate development holistically ? A 2018 study by the IMF pointed out that if the gender gap in labor force participation rates is reduced, we could add about $18 trillion to the global GDP (Ostry et al. 2018). ? In India, Government has taken a number of initiatives to empower women in the country (PMJDY, Mudra, PMUY, SUPI etc.). These initiatives, laying down pivotal infrastructure for sustainable improvement in the long run, have already started showing results and, are expected to bring further traction towards women’s social, cultural and economic empowerment befitting policy level intentions ? As per the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) of India, the overall proportion of women employed as agricultural labours has fallen to 44% in 2019–2020 from 63% in 1993–1994. In contrast, their share in the total employment in the manufacturing and services sectors has increased, but not sufficiently enough to make up for the reduction of work opportunities in the agriculture sector.

Women empowerment through the lens of India’s evolution…women voters will outstrip men from 2029 onwards and almost at par in 2024

In the 1951 elections, only 8 crore voted. In the 2009 elections, this was 42 crores, of which 19 crores were women ? In 2014, the voter turnout increased by a whopping 13.7 crores to 55 crores of which 26 crores were women. It was 5.5x higher than average voter turnout between 1962 to 2009. The same was 5.8x for women and 5.2x for men ? In 2019, the voter turnout further increased to 62 crores, of which 30 crores were women ? In 2024, we project total voter turnout at the current rate of polling could touch 68 crores, of which women voters could be at 33 crores /49% ? In 2029, we project total voter turnout at the current rate of polling could touch 73 crores, of which women voters at 37 crores could be outstripping registered men voters at 36 crores/ >50% of registered voters…..the inflection point would be a testimony of women getting their due share on socio-economic fronts and should be a harbinger of harmonized growth ? It is projected that in 2047 (probable election year 2049), women voter turnout should increase to 55% and men voter turnout might fall to 45%.

Women empowerment towards more electoral participation 

Maximum incremental voter turnout has been observed in 2014 with 8.23% increase in voter turnout adding nearly 13.6 cr voters in polling vote. Out of it nearly 6.9 crore were women and 6.7 crore men ? In 2047 it is projected that around 115 crore people would be registered electors with nearly same proportion of men and women ? In 2047 voter turnout would be at 80% i.e around 92 crore people. Voter turnout will have more participation of women than men with 50.6 crore women, and 41.4 crore men signifying tectonic shift of electoral participation in India.

Role of Women Voters in Lok Sabha and State Elections 

Rising participation of women in India’s political arena is one of the most significant stories of the last decade. Women voters are now playing a significantly bigger role in elections than ever before. ? In the 2019 General Lok Sabha elections, female voter turnout rates was higher than males, which has been declining from 1991, when the gap was more than 10%. The gap was stagnant at around 8.4% on an average for 4 elections between 1996 and 2004 ? The rise in women voter turnout is even more pronounced in State Assembly elections. Out of the 23-major States, where state assembly elections happened in last 5-years, indicate that women’s turnout was higher than that of men in 18 States. Interestingly, out of these 18 states, same Government was reelected in 10 states, where women turnout was more than men turnout.

Women Empowerment through Social Security Schemes 

Empowerment and protection of women and children who constitute 67.7% of India’s population and ensuring their wholesome development in a safe and secure environment is crucial for sustainable and equitable development of the country and for achieving transformational economic and social changes ? It is interesting to know that the women’s share is increasing in all the Government sponsored schemes. The share of women stands at 81% in Stand-up India, 68% in MUDRA loans, 37% in PMSBY and 27% in PMJJBY, which is encouraging.

Contribution of Unpaid Women in India’s GDP 

? Unpaid domestic work is an important aspect of productive activities and an indispensable factor that contributes to the well-being of household and economy. However, the predominance of women in domestic work and keeping them out of ‘economic activities’ put unpaid domestic work under the shadow of invisibility, outside the production boundaries, and further outside the purview of economic policy Rural Urban Minutes 432 431 Hour 7.2 7.2 Total Women (18-60 years) 28.7 13.2 Working age women 1.4 4.0 Unpaid women 27.3 9.3 Per day per hour wage* in Rs 2 1 3 3 Total unpaid contribution in Rs lakh crore 14.7 8.0 Source: SBI Research; *Assuming monthly wage of Rs 5000 & Rs 8000 in rural and urban areas for 8 hours, respectively Contribution of Unpaid Women in GDP Unpaid domestic work by women in crore Total Rural + Urban Contribution (in Rs lakh crore) 22.7 Total Rural + Urban Contribution (% of GDP) 7.5% ? Our analysis is based on the data provided by NSS report (Jan-Dec’19) regarding the unpaid domestic plus caregiving services by women for household members. As per data the average time (in minutes) spent in a day per participant of age 6 years and above is around 432 minutes (or 7.2 hours). Using latest female population in the age group of 18-60 years and assuming monthly income of Rs 5000 and Rs 8000 in rural and urban areas (for 8 hours per day), respectively and further considering 5% of these women in rural areas and 30% in urban areas are working for wages in the formal set-up, we have calculated the monetary contribution of unpaid domestic work of women in India ? Our analysis indicates that the total contribution of unpaid women to the economy is around Rs 22.7 lakh crore (Rural: Rs 14.7 lakh crore and Urban: Rs 8.0 lakh crore) which is almost 7.5% of the India’s GDP.

Nari Shakti Vandana Adhinium 2023:Women Reservation is a Giant Leap towards Women Empowerment 

? Twenty-seven years after the women’s reservation Bill was first introduced in Parliament, the Rajya Sabha on September 21 passed a Bill with near unanimity to amend the Constitution and provide one-third reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies ? Currently, 15% of the total members of the 17th Lok Sabha are women (5% in the first Lok Sabha) while in state legislative assemblies, women on average constitute 9% of the total members ? Scandinavian countries such as Sweden and Norway, and South Africa have more than 45% women representation in their national legislatures. Japan at 10%, lags behind India.

(This research work is a study by Economic Research Department, State Bank of India, Mumbai. No amount of thanks is sufficient for team members at Economic Research Department, specifically, Anurag Chandra, Sumit Jain, Ashish Kumar, Tapas Parida and Disha Kheterpal in helping to put up the report by navigating through myriad volumes of data. Special thanks to Emil Augustine for the extensive data support.)

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