India’s Invisible Workforce

Over 90 percent of women in India work in the informal economy.While women officially contribute a mere 23 percent to India’s GDP, their real contribution is much more significant. Indian women are engaged in traditional work such as weaving, household care, and planting. Many perform jobs traditionally designated as masculine work, such as plowing fields, gathering firewood and working in the fields.

However, this labor is not accounted for or valued in the same way as the formal sector. Women work long, hard, difficult hours under strenuous conditions—all for little pay and zero recognition. Informal sector workers are generally extremely vulnerable. Women working in the informal sector face these challenges with doubled severity. They have little political capital to spend in asserting their rights or making any demands. Additionally, women have little control over their earnings. This handicaps their ability to advance even slightly.

India boasts many fine examples of empowered working women. Patibha Patil serves as President. Sonia Ghandi heads the country’s most powerful political party. Women now dot corporate corner offices, direct international companies and fuel India’s growing tech sector.

Yet over 90 percent of women remain barred in the informal economy.

In order for the majority of women to achieve greater economic status they must make political strides on the community level. Women must be empowered to demand labor rights, bargain on their own behalf and have greater control over household income. These are the fundamental steps that must be taken before large economic change can begin. 90 percent of women must be empowered to voice their concerns—most basically at the household level.

In this video, Luxmi Nautial explores women’s work and the challenges they face in the informal sector.

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