High share of care work keeps Indian women out of economy: McKinsey

An Indian married Hindu woman texts on her mobile phone as married women perform rituals during the Karwa Chauth festival in Allahabad on October 30, 2015. Karwa Chauth is a traditional Hindu festival celebrated in northern India during which married
An Indian married Hindu woman texts on her mobile phone as married women perform rituals during the Karwa Chauth festival in Allahabad on October 30, 2015. Karwa Chauth is a traditional Hindu festival celebrated in northern India during which married women fast one whole day and offer prayers to the moon for the welfare, prosperity, and longevity of their husbands. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Women in India do almost 10 times as much unpaid work as men - a much higher ratio than the global average - leaving them out of the formal workforce and unable to contribute to the economy, consultancy firm McKinsey said in a new report.

Women are responsible for 17 per cent of India's GDP, much less than in many nations, the McKinsey Global Institute said. China's women account for 41 per cent of GDP, those in sub-Saharan Africa 39 per cent and women in Latin America 33 per cent.

"The below-potential contribution of women to India's GDP today ... contrasts with their higher share of unpaid care work such as cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children and older members of the family," said the report, released on Monday.

"Globally, women spend roughly three times the amount of time spent by men on unpaid work. In India, the situation is more extreme - women perform 9.8 times the amount of unpaid care work than men."

If that unpaid work were to be valued and compensated in the same way as paid work, it would contribute US$300 billion (S$419.8 billion) a year to India's economic output, it added.

WIDE VARIATIONS IN GENDER PARITY

Using a new index to measure gender parity across India's states, McKinsey found that Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand had inequality levels similar to impoverished Chad and war-torn Yemen.

Other Indian states such as Mizoram, Kerala, Meghalaya, Goa and Sikkim ranked higher on the index, putting their women on par with Argentina, China and Indonesia in gender parity, it said.

Overall, the Female Empowerment Index, or Femdex - which is based on issues such as women's autonomy, equality at work, legal protection, political voice and physical security - showed a broad range of gender equality in India.

"We find a wide variation in gender equality among India's 32 states, which indicates where efforts to bridge gender gaps need to be focused," the report "The Power of Parity: Advancing women's equality in India" said.

"Advancing gender equality can deliver sizeable additional economic growth and broad-based prosperity to the world - nowhere more so than in India."

McKinsey estimates India could boost GDP by US$700 billion in 2025 if women participated in paid work at a similar level to men.

Indian women represent only 24 per cent of the paid labour force, similar to countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Globally, female workforce participation is 40 per cent.

To bring more women into the formal labour force, the report said India must get more girls into secondary and tertiary education, expand skills training and provide greater access to financial services.

India must also step up gender diversity in the private sector, improve infrastructure and services to address the burden of domestic work and child care and focus on dispelling deep-rooted patriarchal attitudes, it said.