India still plagued by wide gender gap

MUMBAI — Indian women earned just 25% as much as their male counterparts in 2015 even after a near-doubling of their wages over six years, revealing a country with a much larger gender gap than its neighbors in Southeast Asia.

The estimated earned income of Indian women came to $2,257, compared with $9,175 for men, according to the World Economic Forum. Vietnamese women, by contrast, made 83% of what Vietnamese men did last year.

Women still face strong discrimination in some conservative regions of India. The South Asian nation had a female literacy rate of just 65% in 2011 — 17 points below the male rate. Many women are also unfamiliar with the internet. A quarter of the visitors to the Clovia lingerie website are men. They shop for their wives, CEO Neha Kant said.

But female purchasing power is rising with economic growth. Women’s wages have jumped in recent years, and their literacy rate has climbed 12 points in the last decade.

“Women are gaining social status and economic clout every year, especially in urban regions,” said Reiko Furuya, director of the Japan External Trade Organization’s office in New Delhi.

Change is also afoot in the rural regions where 70% of the population lives. Google India and the Tata group launched an initiative last year to teach 500,000 rural women how to use the internet. Many now consider Indian women key consumers who can no longer be ignored.

Source: Nikkei Asian Review

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