India needs women to do better with money

Studies have shown a trend that women’s participation in the workforce declines with prosperity.
India needs women to do better with money
Express Illustration.

There is euphoria about India’s economic growth soaring over the next few years. The latest growth data suggests that India is the fastest-growing economy in the world. New investors are discovering India’s stock market, the fourth most valuable in the world, which continues to offer potential for future growth. New money is predicted to hit Indian stock and bond markets due to the attractive headline numbers on economic growth, government finances and corporate profits. Yet, India’s economy is always pulled back by gender inequality in the workforce.

Women’s participation in the workforce is at 37% compared to 23% five years ago, according to the Periodic Labour Force Survey Report 2022-23 released by the government in October 2023. While it has shown a positive change, it is lower than 60% in China and 47% global average. As you hear a lot of noise about International Women’s Day, gender equality, and participation in the celebrations at your workplace, you need to know that a lot more needs to be done to encourage the active participation of women in the workforce.

Studies have shown a trend that women’s participation in the workforce declines with prosperity. That is a very India-specific phenomenon. If India grows at a robust rate over the next 15 years, women’s participation in the workforce should ideally surge. However, behavioural studies have shown that women are not considered the primary breadwinners. Their income is secondary to the household; families expect them to sit at home if things are going well. Such behaviour is why India’s economy performs way below the potential.

If female participation in the workforce stagnates, it could create problems in the future. Just like men, women should feel safe to go out and work at their place of choice. They should get a secure environment to perform and apply their skills.

Women and personal finances

An increase in women’s participation in the workforce means more women in the investing world, too. A survey of 4,000 Indian women in 2022 by LXME, a financial platform for women and research firm Axis, found that women prefer gold, fixed deposits and provident funds as investments. The survey also showed fewer working women invest directly in the stock market or through mutual funds. That is another contributor to the below potential performance of India’s economy. The other key finding from the survey was that women rely on others to invest. Fewer women make informed decisions on any kind of asset allocation.

If you are a working woman, you must take steps towards controlling your finances. Surveys have shown that many women invest their savings through their spouses or relatives. While it may be a household need or practice, you must slowly work towards taking control of it.

Instead of working with relatives, you can engage a professional advisor to help you define your financial goals and channel your savings to align with your goals. You need to sit with your spouse and actively determine the asset allocation for your household income. In the past, women saved up cash at home for household expenses. However, an event like demonetisation made much of that ‘secret stash’ redundant. Many women could not disclose details about their savings to their families and lost savings.

You need not be shy about your intentions with money. The same survey in 2022 showed that women primarily invest for family security or children’s education. It is time to break free of restrictions. If you cannot manage your own money, you are not free.

If you are a man, you must accept that your working spouse shares the household responsibility in her way. Together, you need to build a future for your family. If that means she needs to follow her instincts towards investing, you are better off trusting them. That is the best you could do to celebrate Women’s Day. Experience in America shows that women make better investors than men in the long run. If that holds for a mature market, it can be repeated in India too, as it hits the ‘Amritkaal’.

Rajas Kelkar

(The author is editor-in-chief at

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