India’s mounting unemployment problem can be partly fixed by supporting women entrepreneurs. A new study says that accelerating entrepreneurial efforts by women can generate transformational employment and create 150-170 million jobs, which is more than one-fourth of the new jobs required for the entire working-age population by 2030.

The report by Bain & Company and Google says women’s potential remains an untapped resource in the country. India has one of the lowest female workforce participation rates in the world and it will remain under pressure due to technological disruption and social barriers.

“Unlocking entrepreneurship among women in India is a complex effort, but it provides an unprecedented opportunity to change the economic and social trajectory of India and its women for generations to come,” says Megha Chawla, partner at Bain & Company and the lead author of the report.

The study reiterates that women’s socioeconomic role goes unrecognised in India as most women work as unpaid caregivers, household managers or in other home-based positions, with a small minority going to work outside the house. While women are better educated and have access to comparatively better healthcare, they continue to face structural, social, and economic barriers to paid employment.

According to the World Bank, 75% of working-age women (35% of India’s working-age population) currently do not have paid work. Only 59% of women have access to mobile phones, with an abysmally low Internet penetration rate of 19%. Additionally, only 35% of women actively use their bank accounts. It further says that of the approximately 432 million working-age women in India, about 343 million are not in paid formal work.

In terms of entrepreneurship, there are between 13.5 million–15.7 million women-owned enterprises, representing 20% of all enterprises, according to the study. Most of these are single-person enterprises, which provide direct employment for about 22 million-27 million people, the study says.

Interestingly, the largest group among single-person enterprises are rural non-farm home-based business owners at 38%, while the second largest group are urban self-employed women solopreneurs at 31%, who usually work from home. There are also agripreneurs or farm-based business owners making 18%, and small business owners at 14%. In total, these women entrepreneurs provide direct employment to an estimated 22 million to 27 million people today, says the study.

It proposes levelling the playing field for high impact, employment-creating women entrepreneurs; enabling solopreneurs and small business owners to scale; helping more women in starting their own businesses; and strengthening and helping productive rural agripreneurs scale, as key suggestions to help boost women entrepreneurship.

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