India’s Women Have Fallen Further Behind Under Modi

India’s Women Have Fallen Further Behind Under Modi
A protester holds a sign condemning gender-based violence in Manipur during a demonstration, in Mumbai, India (SIPA photo by Ashish Vaishnav via AP Images).

Despite the shock of his party not winning an outright majority in India’s just-concluded parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was sworn in for a third consecutive term on June 9. A significant highlight of his second term as prime minister was India’s G20 presidency from December 2022 to November 2023, during which New Delhi emphasized “women-led development” as part of its agenda at the helm of the group. However, Modi’s record on gender equality and women’s empowerment in his first two terms has been far from encouraging.

India ranked 87th out of 144 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2016, two years after Modi first took office. By 2024, it had slipped to the 129th spot out of 146 countries, figuring among the bottom five countries on the sub-indices of Economic Participation and Opportunity and of Health and Survival.

On the economic front, the female labor force participation rate in India remains dismally low. While it increased to 37 percent in 2022-2023, it remained below the global average of 53.4 percent in 2022. Moreover, experts attribute the rise in women’s participation to so-called distress employment rather than greater job generation. The drivers of this growth are largely rural women with low levels of education taking up agricultural labor, self-employment, home-based work and other low-paying jobs in the informal economy, in order to support meager household incomes. Against the backdrop of India’s widespread employment crisis and gender gaps in its labor markets, the lower rates of labor force participation for urban women, at 25.4 percent, compared to their rural counterparts, at 41.5 percent, in 2022-2023 indicate the bleak opportunities for women with relatively higher levels of education. Overall, the dearth of quality jobs providing social insurance and other benefits necessary for conditions of decent work for women across the board can no longer be ignored.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.