India seeks to replicate China’s economic growth, with a critical role attributed to a large segment of its population.


India’s ambitions to ascend to superpower status face a formidable obstacle: a glaring dearth of job opportunities, especially for its female populace.

With over 460 million women of employable age – surpassing the entire population of the European Union – India possesses a reservoir of potential talent. This generation is better educated, more ambitious, and healthier than any before it. Yet, their aspirations collide with the harsh realities of the job market.

Consider Gunasri Tamilselvan, aged 22, who grapples with the looming specter of relinquishing her cherished job. A graduate in engineering, she commenced her tenure at Salcomp, a Finnish electronics giant’s factory in Tamil Nadu, just last year. Assigned to a coveted team manufacturing mobile chargers for marquee smartphone brands, Tamilselvan has confronted opposition both at home and in the workplace in her quest for financial autonomy.

However, time is slipping away. Her family is eager to arrange a marriage promptly – a customary practice in South Asia where parental matchmaking persists. “My father isn’t entirely supportive of my career,” she confides to CNN. “He has given me a mere 10 months, after which he intends to select a spouse for me and orchestrate my marriage.”

Should this come to pass, Tamilselvan will be forced to negotiate with her future husband and in-laws to retain her employment. But this isn’t the sole battle she’s determined to wage.

At the factory, she grapples daily with an arduous endeavor to validate her competence amidst predominantly male counterparts in the automation department, entrusted with cutting-edge machinery.

The statistics paint a stark picture: merely one-third of India’s working-age women are active in the labor force, significantly trailing the global average of approximately 50%, as per the World Bank.

Consequently, the nation forfeits significant economic potential. In a 2018 report, the World Bank posited that India could escalate its economic growth rate to a staggering 9% annually if female workforce participation surged to 50%. (For context, the economy expanded by 8.2% in the fiscal year concluding in March.)

Recent news headlines have illuminated the entrenched challenges facing India’s workforce, particularly its female contingent. Issues like gender parity, societal expectations, and economic imperatives intertwine, shaping the narrative of the nation’s labor landscape.

Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing disparities, disproportionately impacting women’s employment prospects. As sectors like hospitality, retail, and services grappled with closures and layoffs, women bore the brunt of job losses, exacerbating pre-existing inequalities.

In response, policymakers and advocacy groups are increasingly advocating for targeted interventions to bolster female workforce participation. Initiatives encompassing education and skill development, workplace reforms promoting inclusivity, and awareness campaigns challenging societal norms are gaining traction.

Furthermore, the private sector is recognizing the business case for diversity and inclusion, instituting policies and practices to foster a more equitable work environment. Corporate behemoths are investing in programs aimed at nurturing female talent, recognizing the untapped potential they represent.

But progress remains incremental, hampered by deep-rooted cultural norms and structural barriers. Cultural attitudes towards women’s roles, entrenched patriarchal systems, and inadequate support mechanisms continue to impede meaningful change.

Thus, addressing the multifaceted challenges confronting India’s female workforce necessitates a holistic approach, spanning policy, culture, and societal attitudes. It’s not merely an economic imperative but a moral imperative, essential for realizing India’s true potential on the global stage.

As individuals like Gunasri Tamilselvan strive to defy conventions and carve out their place in the workforce, their stories serve as poignant reminders of the untapped reservoir of talent awaiting activation – a potential catalyst for India’s ascent to superpower status.


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