Source: "A job of her own"
India has one of the world’s lowest female employment rates at 26% - and this number has been in decline despite an Indian economy growing at 7% a year. The female unemployment has a “U shape” when viewed by education levels. Women with no education or lots of education tend to work. Those in the middle with only primary or secondary education, tend not to work.
The primary reason is cultural. India is a patriarchy in which men work and women stay home. Indian women do 90% of the housework.Outside a small urban elite, the default position is for women not to work unless there is no other way for a family to make ends meet. This reflects an enduring stigma of women being seen as “having” to toil. A family’s social standing partly derives from women being able to stay at home. Indian women are not expected to have a job—41% of young Indians think it better if married women do not work. As the median age of marriage is 19, there is little time to experience the workplace. According to the World Values Survey, 76% of Indians agree that “when a mother works for pay, children suffer”, the highest figure outside the Middle East. In a survey in 2012 by Pew, a research outfit, 84% of Indians agreed that “when jobs are scarce, men should have more right to a job than women”.
There is an even darker side to the patriarchy - around 600 young girls a day die of neglect resulting from gender bias, according to a study published in the Lancet. The authorities estimate that India has 63m fewer women than it would otherwise because of differing survival rates between boys and girls as well as gender-selective abortions. Across India only 900 girls were born for every 1,000 boys in 2013-15, a ratio that is expected to worsen.
There is also an institutional component. There aren’t very many factories in India. Industries that spawned tens of millions of female jobs in other emerging economies are largely absent from India. Antiquated labor and tax laws and a government fond of harassing big business are to blame for an absence of mega-factories spewing iPhones or T-shirts. Vietnam and Ethiopia, which have plenty of giant factories employing women, mostly making clothing and footwear, boast female workforce-participation above 70%.