Knowledge Center

Women in the Workforce: India


By 2050, India Will Be the Most Populous Country in the World1

In 2017, 1,281,935,911 people lived in India.2

But by 2050, India’s population will increase by 323 million, the largest population increase of any country. 3

This gender population gap starts at birth. For every 100 boys born nationally, 90 girls are born.4

  • Women constitute 48.5% of the population.5

  • In 2011, there were 35,685,539 fewer women than men across India.6

India’s Demographic Skews Young 


India has a large youth population with a median age of 27.9 years old  (compared to 38.1 years old in the United States).7

  • Almost one-third (27%) of India's population is younger than 15 years old.8
  • Only 6% of India’s population is older than 65.9



India’s Complex Culture is Illustrated in its Diverse Religions and Languages10
  • The Caste System (Jati) goes back thousands of years and continues to influence access to some jobs.11
  • The constitution has outlawed caste discrimination for employment and access to education, but not the caste system itself.12


Women Are Closing the Higher Education Gap13

Nearly 27% of women (compared to 27% of men) are enrolled in tertiary education.14


Labor Force

The Labor Force Participation Rate for Women Is One of the Lowest in the World15

Despite educational gains, the labor force participation rate for women in 2017 was 28.5%  (compared to 82% for men).16

  • In 2011-2012, 17.9% of the total employment in India was in regular wage and salaried positions, and in urban areas the gender gap for this employment narrowed.17

  •  Of the 11.7 million urban working women in 2011-2012, almost 43% were in regular wage and salaried positions (up from 28.5% in 1993–1994).18

  • Young women are moving into non-traditional professional jobs, for example in communications.19 

Increasing women’s labor force participation by 10 percentage points could add $700 billion to India’s GDP by 2025 (or a 1.4% increase).  20

Reaching gender parity would have a bigger impact in India than in any other region in the world.21

India’s youthful demographic will add 234 million workers to the labor force by 2027.22


India's Labor Force Will Soon Become the Largest in the World 23

By 2027 the working-age population in India will be almost 20% (18.6%) of the entire global labor force.24


The Gender Pay Gap is Shrinking in India25

Women earn 62% of what their male colleagues earn for performing the same work.26


The Pipeline for Women Starts Small and Continues to Shrink27

140 women held 12.4% of board seats and just 3.2% of board chairs in 2017.28

Additional Resources

Aarti Shyamsunder, Alixandra Pollack, and Dnika J. Travis, India Inc: From Intention to Impact (Catalyst, 2015).

Aarti Shyamsunder and Nancy M. Carter, High Potentials Under High Pressure in India’s Technology Sector  (Catalyst, 2014).

Laura Sabattini, Expanding Work-Life Perspectives: Talent Management in India (Catalyst, 2012).

Catalyst, First Step: India Overview (2013).


How to cite this product: Catalyst, Quick Take: Women in the Workforce: India (July 11, 2018).