India's Treatment of Women Has Economic Impact

Keeping women down is keeping country down


The most obvious economic implication of India's problem with violence against women – recently symbolized by the shocking assault and gang rape of a New Delhi woman on a moving bus – is that it helps keep India's 600 million women marginalized. The World Economic Forum ranks India 123rd in the world by women's economic participation and 121st by educational attainment.

Whatever social attitudes help make violence against women so prevalent in India probably also inform the challenges Indian women face in accessing education and work. There are a number of reasons that India, though the world's second-most populous nation, is also one of its poorest per capita. But attitudes toward women – only 35 percent of whom work, meaning hundreds of millions of potential workers stay at home – are almost certainly part of the problem. This may be why China's first communist leaders, who took over when their then-poor nation had similar attitudes toward women, campaigned aggressively against such practices as female foot-binding, arguing that underlying attitudes toward women held back the country's economy.