Research suggests that investing in Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) has important linkages with gender equality. As a result, India has witnessed several schemes and progressive legislation—both at the central and state levels—that aim to empower women and increase their participation in the economy. However, despite the government’s targeted efforts, India has had limited success. The Global Gender Gap Report 2020 has ranked India among the five worst countries in the ‘Economic Participation and Opportunity’ index.

The COVID-19 pandemic has only heightened this gendered vulnerability. National Sample Surveys’ data reveals that the Female Labour Force Participation Rate (FLFPR) has been in decline in rural areas, and has remained stagnant in urban areas since the late 1980s. Similarly, a close look at this data by the Initiative for What Works to Advance Women and Girls in the Economy (IWWAGE) finds that despite the priority accorded to skilling programmes by the government, less than two percent of women received formal training in 2017-18. But even as 84 percent of formally trained men joined the labour force, less than half of the trained women did so.

There are several reasons that can explain why WEE policies in India may not have had the anticipated impact. However, in the absence of rigorous evaluations of government schemes and policies, evidence remains thin and fragmented. As a first step to addressing the problem, The Quantum Hub (TQH), where we work, has undertaken an exercise to map the landscape of policies and synthesise all available evidence. Additionally, we also undertook a design analysis of some prominent interventions to identify patterns in shortcomings and opportunities, if any. Our hope is that learnings from this exercise will facilitate decision-making until such time when rigorous evidence becomes available, especially since many of these interventions are supported by substantial budgetary commitments.

Read the full article about policies for women's empowerment by Sneha Pillai and Rohit Humar at India Development Review.