One way to stop women from dropping out of the workforce – digital entrepreneurship | analysis | Hindustan Times
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One way to stop women from dropping out of the workforce – digital entrepreneurship

Contrary to the country’s statistics of women dropping out of the workforce, in the last five years (between 2012 and 2016), the number of new women-owned small medium business enterprises on Facebook in India has increased seven-fold, growing 85% from 2015 to 2016.

analysis Updated: Mar 26, 2018 12:08 IST
According to an IndiaSpend report, 25 million women have left the Indian labour force in the past 10 years and only 27% of Indian women are currently part of the country’s labour force. Only Saudi Arabia is worse than India
According to an IndiaSpend report, 25 million women have left the Indian labour force in the past 10 years and only 27% of Indian women are currently part of the country’s labour force. Only Saudi Arabia is worse than India(Representative photo/ Getty Images)

In 2014, four women founded a social enterprise called Coppre, which revived a 400-year-old tradition of handcrafted metalware to help create livelihoods for artisans across India by selling their unique products online. Coppre has no physical store. Dirty Feet is another interesting project led by two Indian women who built a company that offers hands-on, rural field trips to primary school children. The entire operations are conducted on social media.

There are many such women entrepreneurs using the Internet to build businesses while also managing to hurdle over the top three reasons that make women leave the workforce – family pressures, wage disparity and fear of owning and growing a business. Yet, in 2018, while jobs for men increased by 0.9 million, 2.4 million women dropped out of the workforce in 2017, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy.

According to an IndiaSpend report, 25 million women have left the Indian labour force in the past 10 years and only 27% of Indian women are currently part of the country’s labour force. There are many reasons why this trend of women leaving the workforce is worrying. If women participated in the economy at pace with men, India’s GDP would increase by up to 60%, or $2.9 trillion, by 2025. Women currently contribute merely 17% to the GDP, way below the global average of 37%. What’s ironic is that the 2011 National Sample Survey found that over a third of women in urban India and half in rural areas who engage mainly in housework actually want a paying job. What is holding them back is a combination of societal pressures, not being trained or skilled and a lack of mobility – in the sense that many women are not allowed to leave home without permission from the men in their family.

This is where the Internet can help. The greater the participation of female entrepreneurs, the greater the impact on the global economy. All over the world, it is estimated that approximately one third of the business organisations are owned by women. A recent research conducted by Facebook over a year across South Asia and India in specific has shown that there is a growing entrepreneurial spirit amongst women, which is what we need to tap into. It was found that women in South Asia start a business mainly to have a source of income, to pursue an interest or hobby, to be more independent, and to be more creative. Also, the proportion of single-led businesses is significantly higher among women (56%) compared to men (43%). In India, industry-wise, Indian women are significantly more dominant in retail,social services, and personal services.

It’s not that gender disparity doesn’t exist online. The second Inclusive Internet Index Report prepared by Facebook and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) found that the gender gap in Internet inclusion is still far too pervasive (on average, the proportion of men that access the Internet is 33.5% higher than the proportion of women). It is more pronounced in low-income countries, which have an average gender access gap of 80.2% compared to 3.7% among high-income countries.

Contrary to the country’s statistics of women dropping out of the workforce, in the last five years (between 2012 and 2016), the number of new women-owned small medium business enterprises on Facebook in India has increased seven-fold, growing 85% from 2015 to 2016.

Digital media can be the equaliser for women and give women access to new opportunities, new markets, new ideas - all from their own home. Bringing more and more women into the digital workspace can be part of the solution.

Ankhi Das, Public Policy Director, India, South & Central Asia, Facebook

Thew views expressed are personal