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Indian women are dropping out of the workforce at an alarming rate. As per the latest survey, during the pandemic, the percentage of women employed in the workforce was a mere 16.1 percent. The irony of the matter is that as a growing economy, India should be creating more jobs for its women, but why has that not been the case so far?

Some say that this was bound to happen, that the pandemic has only highlighted the natural inequalities in men and women's access to jobs. In stark contrast, others contend that with social mobility and a rising middle class, women voluntarily stay out of lowly paid jobs.

Yet others attribute this to the paternalistic structure of the Indian household, and the watertight gender roles that are framed under it- in which the man is the natural bread-winner and the woman is delegated to take up all the housework. Moreover, some quip since equal work sharing at home for a two-income household will not come without a struggle and it is far easier for women to drop out than fight. Some naysayers go as far as to ask what will happen to men if all the women start taking up jobs?

The data consistently points to the opportunity costs of women staying out of work, as it leads to a decline in the overall productivity of the country. Besides, in the personal sphere women are empowered by gaining financial autonomy. Many experts have pointed out that changes in government policies alone will not suffice to help women at work. In order to do so, we need to investigate the complexities behind why most Indian women are not working, and whether it is out of choice or it is out of circumstantial helplessness.

We believe that a deliberative conversation around the nuances of Indian women's workforce participation, is the need of the hour.

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