Female entrepreneurship rising in India: OECD

Survey moots reviving 2002 proposal on extending gender quotas

November 19, 2014 08:49 pm | Updated November 16, 2021 08:18 pm IST - New Delhi

OECD estimates that the annual growth of the economy could be up to 2.4 percentage points higher if India implements a package of pro-growth and pro-gender policies. It recommends reviving the 2002 proposal on extending gender quotas at the national and State parliamentary levels.

Female entrepreneurship is increasing in India, especially in manufacturing, where women account for 40 per cent of entrepreneurs, according to the OECD Economic Survey of India. This spurt in female entrepreneurship is facilitated by education, work experience and role models, including through quotas in political representation on rural councils, says the Survey.

Though encouraging the increase in entrepreneurship, however, is almost entirely accounted for by subsistence self-employed entrepreneurs, who work from home or as street vendors, the Survey finds. This is because the number of female entrepreneurs who have one or more employees has remained broadly stable.

OECD Chief Economist Catherine L. Mann released this Survey here on Wednesday. Also present at its presentation was Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian.

Aside of rising incidence of entrepreneurship, female economic participation in India remains exceptionally low, holding down incomes and resulting in severe gender inequalities, says the Survey. India stands out with less than a third of working-age women in work; this is, for example, half that of Brazil.


Weak demand is also contributing to lack of job opportunities. Double-digit unemployment among highly educated women suggests that many are willing to work if they had access to jobs that matched their skills, the Survey says.

The fact that most jobs were created in India in construction that tends to employ men has meant fewer opportunities for women.

India has pioneered many creative programmes to raise female status and participation in the economy, including training, gender budgeting, quotas for women in local councils, requiring women on boards in the 2013 Companies Bill and a Women’s Bank. India has also pledged to raise female economic participation in its G20 commitments. However, to realise the potential of higher female labour market participation, stronger gender-specific measures are needed, the Survey recommends.

It also recommends reinforcement of the implementation of the many existing laws that provide for gender equality and women’s rights, and removal of discriminatory legal measures.

Specific recommendations include: expansion of the Aadhaar programme to enlarge women’s opportunities by providing bank accounts for more women, raising the social protection, maternity benefits, as well as child and elderly care to free more women to enter the formal labour force and reinforcing the policies by the Ministry of Women and Child Development to promote training and access to credit to further increase entrepreneurship, including from home.

The Survey says that female quotas in local councils (from 30 to 50 per cent of seats and rotating chair) have raised women’s status by showing that women can do the job, and has improved decision making.

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