Womenomics can help India to be a $5 trillion economy


In 2012, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe started a campaign on improving women’s participation in the workplace- which would exponentially increase the country’s GDP and strengthen its economy. Following suit, many developing countries realized that they had untapped human capital in the form of unemployed women. This strategy of encouraging women to participate in the workforce in order to boost the economy was termed Womenomics.

I was really fascinated by this term, but that was the time when I was busy in politics. But the times changed. I was given the responsibility of the women’s wing of the Bhartiya Janata Party. This helped me to understand womenomics better. This is an effort to share my observations about womenomics.

Current State of Women in India

India has a current population of 1.4 billion people, out of which 48.4% (roughly 683,281,137) are women. With an almost 50:50 ratio, it would make sense that women contribute around 50% to India’s economy. However, this is far from the case. Recent studies have revealed that women contribute to only 18% of India’s $2622 billion economy- that’s only around $472 billion.

India is aiming to become a $5 trillion economy and we really do not need reports from Goldman Sachs to tell us that womenomics will help us achieve this herculean task.

To understand why India’s female population falls short when it comes to economic contribution, we must understand the status of and expectations from the women in the country. Women, especially in rural areas, are still expected to only partake in what is known as ‘unpaid care work’. This means taking care of all the chores around the house, birthing and bringing up children, and taking care of their elderly parents and in-laws. This leaves them no time, nor the financial independence to leave their own lives.

Womenomics in Urban Areas

Women in urban areas may start off in good careers, as they are brought up with good educational resources- however many of them leave to become full-time parents after the birth of their children or take large gaps until their children are grown up to return to the workplace. This is because of both societal expectations of women to stay in the house and take care of the children, as well as the lack of proper child-care and daycare resources to care for young children.

Many women miss out on building fulfilling careers in this manner, as they are unable to juggle both child-rearing and long hours at work. In this manner, men are able to put in longer hours and more effort at work and earn promotions and raises, while the women get left behind.

This is the plight of many working-age women in India. many of whom are barred from pursuing higher education or are married off at a young age in the name of dowry. However, the situation seems to be slowly improving. Women are taking back their lives and using their skills and talents to carve their own niche in industries that were once male-dominated- one business start-up at a time.

Similarly, it was found that encouraging Indian women to follow their passions and build their careers could add no less than $770 billion to our economy by 2025! This is an almost 30% increase which is quite astonishing.

Womenomics in Rural Areas

India currently has 432 million women of the working age (15-64), out of which 343 million have been found to work in unpaid or informal sectors. Though the informal sectors do contribute to 15-20% of India’s GDP, the work is often erratic and very low-paid. This means that the women partaking in such activities do not receive benefits like job security, a proper living wage, maternity leave, and other benefits that would make them feel comfortable at their job.

This is also very low growth potential in such jobs, which causes women to become stuck in a vicious cycle of no growth for their entire lives. Many factories and companies also exploit financially poor women to receive cheap labor, and the women, having no other option find themselves stuck in laborious jobs with no reward.

So, why do women find themselves stuck in such jobs?

This is highly prevalent in rural areas, where women are married off at a young age to men much older than them. Their education is often forsaken in favor of this, which leaves them with little-to-none resources to fend for themselves in case their husbands pass away. These women have to take up low-paying, often dangerous work to care for themselves and their children, often without any financial support from their families. This causes their children to grow up without the same resources- and hence the vicious cycle continues.

We can identify the root cause of this problem as the lack of independence and education. If women are not allowed to grow, then they are unable to formulate their own ideas and work to make themselves financially independent. The dependence of women on their husbands does not account for the fact that these women may not be prepared to care for themselves if something were to happen to them.

They also lack the necessary knowledge to make sound financial decisions, which may lead to underconfidence and confusion when dealing with funds or attempting to open a bank account. Hence, the first step to empowering the women of India is to break them out of the toxic patriarchal system and give them the right tools to build their future.

Though the Government of India does provide free primary education in India, it currently does not have any provisions for higher education. Many rural families do not support women pursuing higher education, as they do not like the thought of women becoming ‘too independent, or may not be willing to spend on expensive education if they are low on funds. This seriously cripples them in comparison to men, and they are unable to keep up with the growing competition for jobs and quality education.

With India’s steadily growing population, the demand for more qualified and skilled people to fill positions is increasing as well. So, how can poor, uneducated women keep up?

How Women-owned Businesses are smashing the patriarchy

With more women looking to empower themselves and secure their futures, the number of women-owned start-ups in India is increasing. More women are using their skills to dig themselves out of the holes dug by Indian society and build stable lives for themselves and their children. And it seems to be working- 50% of all start-ups in India have been identified as belonging to women!

Even women in rural India are catching up. From businesses that make small, homemade products to fully powered companies that employ more women and give back to the community, these women are taking their villages by storm. Many of these entrepreneurs are able to provide for their parents and send their children to big cities to receive better education- something that they wouldn’t have been able to do without support before.

With the increasing population in India, competition for better-paying jobs and good positions is increasing as well. This is driving women to pursue careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in the hopes of securing these positions. The education rate of women has never been better, with almost 40% of women being educated in STEM fields! Many Indian women are surpassing men and bagging good jobs in industries that contribute greatly to the economy.

So, what makes women-run businesses special?

Many ambitious women are using their instincts and talents to take their start-ups to new heights. In fact, women-owned businesses provide a 35% higher ROI (return of investments) than those of men- which leads to higher confidence of potential investors in female entrepreneurs.

Women are also much better at multitasking and being their own boss. They put in longer hours at work and quickly identify more time-efficient ways to perform tasks- saving their business both time and money.

Women are also bigger risk-takers- they use their drive to success to take the riskier option, many of which pay off in the long run. A survey by KPMG determined that 43% of women were willing to take riskier decisions to grow their business. They were able to accurately detect hidden opportunities and invest in them, which helped open up their start-ups to new streams of revenue and higher customer reach.

Successful Female-owned businesses

According to the National Survey Sample Office, a mere 14% of all businesses in India are run by women. Most of these businesses fall in the MSME category.

Additionally, 20% of all women in India run MSMEs. Most of these women are part of the manufacturing and agricultural sector, which make up the bulk of India’s economy. It was estimated that between 13.5 –15.7 million women own their own businesses, directly providing employment to 25 million people!

Women-led businesses are quite fruitious in the sense that they are generally more successful. These businesses have seen the generation of 10% more revenue than men-owned businesses within 5 years of inception, and grow much faster. Nearly 73% of women-led startups generated a revenue of Rs. 10 lakhs and over in a single financial year.

Women-owned businesses also generally have more positive and encouraging work cultures and office environments, have more room and opportunities for growth, and provide employment opportunities to women looking to start up their careers again.

Government Initiatives to encourage womenomics

The Government of India has caught on to the untapped potential of women in India. With the growing population, there is a need to create members of society that contribute to the economy rather than becoming financial burdens on other people. The growth in GDP must be in accordance with the growth in population- however, the current status of working-age women is causing a lag in the same. Hence, the government has come up with a number of schemes to get women into business.

The Government of India decided to increase the budget for their Women and Children development schemes by 14% in 2021. Their total budget for the same is $3.97 billion. By educating women from their childhood and ingraining a sense of independence and drive in them, the probability of them building successful careers in the future becomes much higher.

The resource center NITI Aayog has established a Women Entrepreneurship Program to provide women entrepreneurs with funds, support, and any other resources they may need to bring their ideas to fruition or expand their scope of business. Some of the services they provide are mentorship and free credit ratings. And also partnerships and apprenticeships with established corporations that would mutually benefit them both. The main goal is to encourage women to take risks and invest in themselves, by providing them with much-needed support.

Banks Contribute to Womenomics

Dena Bank provides affordable loans to women in business. They have titled this scheme Dena Shakti. It mostly focuses on MSMEs, agricultural, educational and retail activities. Women holding more than 50% stake in any small enterprise are eligible to avail of the benefits of this scheme. It helps them to expand their business or get it off the ground. In addition to this, there are many other PSU banks promoting women in Business.

Central Bank offers the Cent Kalyani Scheme whereas, State Bank of India offers the Stree Shakti Package.

Women Development Corporation helps the women to women to secure capital for their start-ups under Udyogini Scheme. It caters to women earning under $1,985 (Rs. 1.5 lakh) annually and helps them take out subsidized loans for up to $3,890 (Rs. 3 lakh). It caters specifically to micro-enterprises, which the WDC hails as the backbone of the country.

The Ministry of Women and Child Development implemented STEP (Support and Training and Employment Programme for Women) in 1986. This program helps empower unskilled and uneducated women. Women in the business get training in horticulture, food manufacturing, processing, tailoring and sewing, handlooms, IT and technology, and agriculture.

It gives them employment opportunities or helps them to start a business of their own. Womenomics in India is different. They also receive training in soft skills like presentation, speaking, and spoken English language. This gives them the confidence to work, as well as gain employment in service-related industries like tourism, retail, and hospitality.

The Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana also aims to provide financial aid to people starting up Small businesses. This scheme however is not specific to women’s businesses alone. It helps budding entrepreneurs avail credit to get their businesses up and running. It requires no security or collateral. Currently, it offers up to $13,240 (10 lakh rupees) for initial investment.


According to the estimates, women’s enterprises will grow by 90% in the next 5 years. With more importance being given to the education and upliftment of the girl child, there’s no doubt that India will see much more participation from women in the workplace in upcoming years. Women starting their own businesses tend to be more independent, and confident and have more peace of mind than those partaking in unpaid care work.

The increase of women in the labour force will help India become a $5 trillion economy. Empowering women also breaks the cycle of generational poverty. It enriches future generations, who follow in the footsteps of their mothers and strive for good educations and jobs. So, when you hear the slogan ‘Beti Bachao, Beti padhao’, the underlying message is ‘Beti padhao, aur India ko badhao’!