When flipping through the pages of Indian history, it is evident that the country was robbed of its wealth. From the Mughal Empire to the British Raj, every conqueror plundered the country ruthlessly. Consequently, the post- British government arrested international trade and various other economic activities extensively. This move protected domestic infant industries, boosted production in the Indian economy, and helped the domestic markets grow. Thus, Indians reaped the benefits of their land for the first time in over a hundred years.
As the Indian economy prospered, the once feared idea of liberalizing the economy sounded less scary. After a failed attempt to liberalize the economy in 1966, in the 1990s, the administration successfully did it. However, this did not benefit all sections of the population equally. Although it increased the income of the nation, it was partial to urban areas. Businesses in rural India were yet to grow large enough to enjoy the freedom of trade brought about by liberalizing the economy.
The government assumed economic liberalization would create new jobs for all. Unfortunately, that was not the case. While highly skilled women in urban areas rose to greater heights, women belonging to the poorer sections of society lost their jobs to foreign and urban companies. With the advent of industrialization and globalization, women in rural areas were left jobless. Employing new and improved technologies in operations that once employed rural women was more cost-efficient and time-saving. For example, power winders replaced handwheels used for textile production, costing many women their jobs. Even while employing workers for operating these power winders, businesses preferred men over women. Such instances widened the gender gap tremendously, escalating discriminatory tendencies both at workplaces and at home. Trade liberalization also led to the displacement of Indian silk textiles in Indian markets by Chinese and Korean ones costing Indian silk spinners their jobs. Thus, one may conclude that liberalization has caused an increase in unemployment without creating new job opportunities for women.
Another impact of economic liberalization was the casualization of the workforce. Casualization is a key to reduce income disparities in society as it displaces those in highly paid jobs and creates jobs for the unemployed. However, the new jobs created via casualization generally tend to be insecure jobs paying low wages – causing a shift in employment from men to women, although in an unorganized manner. On the bright side of liberalization, industries like the arts and crafts created new jobs for women, thanks to the export duty reduction induced market growth. The reduction certainly boosted production in the country but decreased female employment, especially in large companies. The reason behind the decrease is twofold. Firstly, production increase necessitated commissioning a highly skilled and educated workforce, which led to hiring men over women. Secondly, the decline of high tariff rates caused companies to make workers take more shifts per day to substantiate the increased market demand. Men are preferred over women here, as the law prohibits women from working night shifts and long hours.
Due to all of the above reasons and more, women are financially dependent on men. Studies have shown that this dependency has increased intimate-partner-violence (IPV), a significant public health concern. For many women, this dependency proves to be a burden if and when their marriage dissolves. It can also cause feelings of depression, anxiety, and anger which may further develop into severe mental illnesses. It is also evident that the role of decision-making within households goes to the breadwinner. In this case, women get neglected while making decisions at any level. It will, in turn, limit the woman’s exposure to the financial world.
Being a financially independent woman is essential for many reasons. First and foremost, it boosts morale and gives confidence. Being financially independent, women can bear their daily needs as well as their families. It will also be helpful in cases of emergencies. At a macro-economic level, gender discrimination in society as a whole will decline, and egalitarian society will get established. Experts say that if Indian women are allowed to contribute to the economy as much as men, the GDP will increase by a whopping 27%.
Credits – Purva Sreekaanth