The Indian economy has experienced substantial growth since the 1980s, transitioning millions from agriculture to manufacturing and services. However, not all segments of society have equally benefited. Factors like gender, caste, and family dynamics profoundly influence access to education and the workforce. A recent report by Azim Premji University sheds light on these complexities.

In this State of the Economy podcast, V Nivedita talks to authors Amit Basole and Rosa Abraham about the report, titled “State of Working India 2023”. Basole, heading the Centre for Sustainable Employment, specialises in India’s “jobless growth.” Abraham focuses on informal work and women’s employment in India’s labour market.

The report presents positive shifts, including reduced caste-based segregation and gender-based earnings disparities. Yet, challenges persist, such as high unemployment rates and inadequate representation of women in the workforce. Notably, lower-caste entrepreneurs remain underrepresented.

The study highlights movements from agriculture to casual and salaried work, with distinctions in opportunities across communities. Access to quality education, social networks, and discrimination contribute to varying outcomes. Muslims, often engaged in traditional crafts, face barriers to diversifying their livelihoods.

Policies like the Mudra scheme aim to support self-employment, but their impact on expanding businesses remains limited. The gender pay gap has narrowed, attributed to increased education and women’s concentration in higher-quality jobs. However, it coexists with declining female workforce participation.

The discussion underscores the need for policies addressing educational disparities, skilling, and expanding quality employment opportunities. The report emphasizes the nuanced realities of India’s labor market, advocating for inclusive economic growth.