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Desai on Indian educated women’s paradox

Education is not paying off to better job opportunities, marriage prospects, or freedom to choose for women in India

In an Op-Ed for The Hindu, Faculty Associate Sonalde Desai writes about the apparent paradox that educated Indian women struggle. According to the India Human Development Survey (IHDS) of 2011, 70% of girls aged 15 to 18 are attending school, only five percentage points less than boys. In 2018, the Class XII CBSE examination found that 88.31% of girls passed the assessments compared to 78.99% of boys. However, even when education seems to rise, labor markets and social norms still constrain women. Further analyses have shown that there is a U-shaped relationship between education and employment based upon data from the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), “Work participation drops sharply for women with primary and secondary education and rises only with college education” wrote Desai. In addition, marriage remains an acceptable fate for young women in India. Approximately 3% of Indian women aged 30-34 are single, compared to 11% of women in Sri Lanka.

In addition, Indian women tend to marry men with lower education than themselves. Data from the National Family Health Survey shows little evidence that a moderate level of education offers women a greater say in household decisions or freedom outside the home. The paradox shows that even when parents make sacrifices to educate their daughters, their aspirations get frustrated by economic and social barriers that restrict women’s opportunities and aspirations.

As for the participation of women in elections, Desai adds: “Let us hope that some political party will figure out that women are not simply extensions of their husbands and fathers and campaign on a platform that focuses on creating economic and social opportunities for women” she concluded.

See the complete The Hindu article

This article was also incorporated into a larger report on girls' opportunities in India by Bloomberg Quint