India ranks among the worst-performing countries in terms of female employment rates, according to the World Bank, with a 20% female employment rate, slightly higher than war-torn Afghanistan.

Narendra Modi’s government plan to raise the minimum age of marriage for women to 21 could help improve employment rates as more and more women will be able to pursue higher education and careers, according to a recent report from SBI Research. This is because the median age of marriage has fallen further to 22.1 years in 2019, compared to 22.3 years a year ago, according to the latest survey results from the Sample Registration System (SRS), conducted by the government.

“We believe that raising the legal age has the potential to lower India’s BMR (Maternal Mortality Rate) and lead to more women graduating and thus entering the labor market. Another advantage is that the legal age of marriage for men and women will be equal,” said SBI Ecowrap last week.

Source: SBI Research, SRS 2019

While the average grades are above the suggested minimum age, every second woman in a pool of five was married before age 21. from 21.

India is among the worst-performing women in terms of employment

According to the World Bank, India is among the worst performing countries in terms of female employment rates, with a female employment rate of 20%, slightly higher than war-torn Afghanistan and significantly lower than the average employment rate of women in higher-income countries. at 44.5%. Women’s employment rates have been further hampered by the pandemic.

According to a Center for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) report, the lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic affected both the female and male workforce, but the impact was skewed in favor of the male workforce; women have a particularly hard time due to deteriorating labor market conditions. “Women accounted for 10.7 percent of the workforce in 2019-20, but suffered 13.9 percent of job losses in April 2020, the first month of the lockdown shock. By November 2020, men had regained most of their lost jobs, but women were less fortunate. 49 percent of the job losses in November were by women. The recovery has benefited everyone, but women have benefited less than men. It has further led to an even lower participation of women in the labor market,” according to the CMIE report.

Could Raising the Legal Marriage Age Improve Socioeconomic Indicators?

In December, the government presented a bill in parliament to raise the legal age of marriage for women from 18 to 21, the same as the legal age for men. However, after opposition from opposition parties, the bill was sent to a parliamentary committee for further evaluation. The SBI report said that while raising the legal age of marriage will be beneficial in both social and economic terms, some states will face a daunting task of changing people’s social and cultural behavior.

India is home to the highest number of child brides, according to UNICEF, despite the legal age for women being 18 for the past four decades. While proponents of the government’s plans argue that raising the legal age to marry will have a trickle down effect and improve health indicators such as maternal mortality and teenage pregnancies.

Others believe that the situation will not improve unless greater societal and cultural change takes place, especially in states with poorer health indicators. Despite the existence of older laws, the latest findings from the National Family Health Survey suggested that one in fourth women aged 20-24 were married before the age of 18.

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