Employment, Stories, Women

Data: Stark Difference in Share of Women in Organized and Unorganized Sectors both in India and Globally


The United Nations Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (UNEAFDW) states that its state parties emphatically affirm to both recognize and ensure that women and men should participate and contribute on a basis of equality in all processes and sectors. We look at the data related to share of Women in organized and unorganized Sectors.

Recognizing the fundamental right to equality of women with men in all spheres of life such as social, political, economic, and other forms, nations around the world have vowed to eradicate all forms of inequality against women, especially in the last few decades. To this effect, the United Nations Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (UNEAFDW) states that its state parties emphatically affirm to both recognize and ensure that “women and men should participate and contribute on a basis of equality in the social, economic and political processes of development and should share equally in improved conditions of life.”

Gender-bias and inequality towards women are a globally prevailing issues for centuries. It continues even as on date as one of the social evils plaguing modern society. The global conventions such as EAFDW and the respective national policies, legislations and other such initiatives in the last few decades have paved the way to both empower and uplift the status of women in equality with men. However, it remains a distant reality to be achieved in many countries, especially in the employment and economic sectors.

In this story, we look at the global and national situation of equality of women in the employment and economic sectors.

Global Data shows Employment and Economic Inequality prevailing against Women

The 2016 Global data published by United Nations Women (UN Women) has revealed glaring inequality and gender discrimination in the employment and economic sectors even today.

The above data on different types of employment shows a sharp difference between men and women in terms of employment share in services and the informal sector to the organized and more remunerative forms of employment.

For instance, the data shows that women employees constitute to only about 14% in the industry sector and only 4% of women serve as CEOs of Fortune 500 Companies. Therefore, the percentage of women representation in the organized employment sector is extremely low. However, the percentage of women engaged in the unorganized sectors is very high, when compared to men. The UN data shows that 80% of domestic workers, 73% of domestic migrant workers, 57% of domestic workers with no work limitations and 44% of migrant workers are women. Further, 61% of those working in services such as health, education, retail trade, etc. are women. Thus, these facts reveal the higher representation of women in low-paid forms of employment such as the services and informal sector than in the higher-paid forms of employment such as industry, etc. This is further substantiated by the fact that globally, on average, women earn only 77 cents for each dollar earned by men.

To this effect, the UN notes that Even as globalization has brought millions of women into paid labour, the number of women in the workforce is far behind that of men. Gender inequalities have also concentrated women at the bottom of the global value chain — in the lowest paid jobs, in piece-rate, subcontracted work, and insecure forms of self-employment, with little or no access to decent work and social protection. Women are half the world’s potential and unleashing it requires access to decent, good-quality paid work as well as gender-sensitive policies and regulations, such as adequate parental leave and flexible hours. The economics make sense, too: If women played an identical role in labour markets to that of men, as much as US$28 trillion, or 26 per cent, could be added to the global annual Gross Domestic Product by 2025.”

This underlines the unequal representation of women in the employment sector and their share in the economy. The same report also noted that only 49% of women in the working age group are engaged in the work when compared to men at 76%. Most importantly, the UN notes that if women are engaged in identical positions to men, it will add to 26% more of the total global Gross Domestic Product (GDP). As the UN further notes, if such inequality is removed, it will not only add to the just society but also help in growing the economy of various countries.

Studies show Women of India still underrepresented in Employment

The position of women in employment and their share in the economy is also poor in India. The World Economic Forum’s (WEF) report titled ‘The Global Gender Gap Report’ revealed several facts regarding this. The report compiled the gender equality status of a number of countries starting in the year 2006 and published every year after that. As per the same report, the overall rank of India in gender equality in the year 2006 was 98 out of the 115 countries whose data was considered for the report. As per the 2023 report, the rank was 127 out of 146 countries. Further, in the year 2006, India ranked 110, 102, 103 and 20 respectively among the four parameters viz. Economic participation and opportunity, Educational attainment, Health and survival and Political empowerment, that were measured to evaluate gender equality performance. Similarly, in the year 2023, India’s rank in the same parameters was 142, 26, 142 and 59, respectively.

Coinciding with these facts, the recent 2021 official study conducted by the National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (NIRD&PR) noted that Indian women’s’ contribution to the total GDP of India is only 18%. Comparatively, women in countries such as China, Vietnam, and Japan contribute to about 41%, 40% and 33% of the total GDP of the respective countries. Even in one of the smallest countries of the world, Sri Lanka, the contribution to national GDP by women is 29%. Further, as per World Bank (WB), the overall contribution of women to the global GDP is 37%.

Various studies clearly depict the disadvantaged and unequal position of Indian women in the economy and employment. Pertinently, the NIRD&PR report goes on to say that if the women of India had the same participation rate as that of men, its GDP would increase by about 43%. In other words, there is a significant opportunity in India if inequality against women is reduced.  

Women share in Employment in India is low in Organized Sector but high in Unorganized Sector

In the recent past, the share of Indian women employed in some of the organized sectors such as industry, bureaucracy, etc. has witnessed a slight increase, although it is still below par. In contrast, the share of women employed in unorganized sectors such as agriculture, labour and other types of employment is higher than men.  

As per the official information, the percentage of women employed in key sectors such as Army, Navy and Air Force is about 3.97%, 6% and 13.69%, respectively, as of 2022. Further, the share of women scientists in total scientists in India is only 16.6%, as of 2018, though it has marginally increased from 12% in the year 2000. Furthermore, as per the 07 December 2023 reply given in Rajya Sabha, the total number of women judges in the Supreme Court and High Courts is 3 and 111, respectively. This is about 10% and 14% of the total number of judges appointed in both the judicial bodies, respectively. Similarly, the percentage of women in the police force as of 2020 is about 10.3%. This has also increased from 3.9% in the year 2008. The government aims to increase the percentage of women in the police force to 33%. As of 2023, the percentage of women in legislative bodies such as parliament and state assemblies is about 14% and 9%, respectively. With the passing of the Women’s Reservation Act, it has now become mandatory in Parliament and Constituent Assemblies of India to have 33% of women representation.

The same trend is also evident in the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), which are the backbone of the Indian economy. Factly’s stories on MSMEs can be accessed here, here, here & here

As per the official information, while the contribution of MSMEs to the GDP in the years 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22 was 30.5%, 27.2% and 29.2%,  respectively, their share in the total exports of India in the years 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23 is 49.4%, 45.0% and 43.6%, respectively. However, the rate of women’s employment and percentage of MSMEs owned by women is only about 20% and 20.5%, respectively.

Therefore, the data shows that the representation of women in the organized sector is very low as of date, though it has witnessed an increase in the recent past.

As noted earlier, in contrast, the official data shows that the percentage of women employed in the unorganized sectors is very high, compared to the organized sector. As per the latest data on e-Shram Portal, which is a dedicated website for workers in unorganized sector, the percentage of women enrolled is about 53% on the current date. Further, the recent 20 December 2023 reply given in parliament revealed the percentage of women employed under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) as being 53%, 54% and 57% during the years 2020-21, 2021-22 and 2022-23, respectively. Similarly, as per NITI Aayog, 80% of rural women are engaged in agricultural work, while their total share in agriculture work is 63%.

To sum up, the official data shows a clear disparity in India between the share of women in unorganized and organized sectors and rural and urban areas. It also shows that compared to the overall global scenario, the gender disparity in India is on the higher side in terms of employment and economic participation.


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