A Major Economic Challenge

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By Ketrin Agustine

A Major Economic Challenge

India has one of the world’s lowest rates of formal employment for women.

There is one change, so simple it can be described in just six words, that could lift millions of people out of poverty and expand the world’s fifth-largest economy: Get more Indian women paid jobs.

In many other countries, female labor-force participation has propelled economic growth. But India has one of the world’s lowest rates of formal employment for women. The percentage of women doing paid work has dropped sharply in recent years. Last year, 24 percent had a paid job, down from 29 percent in 2010. In China, by comparison, that rate is about 60 percent.

“Every month, I read a statistic somewhere about how our G.D.P. is losing out because we don’t have ‘productive workers’ in the work force, and by that they mean women,” said Shrayana Bhattacharya, an economist at the World Bank.

But changing that is easier said than done.

One problem is India’s “jobless growth”: Although the country has some big companies, especially in technology, they are clustered in a few large cities. Much of the country’s recent economic growth has been concentrated in small, family-owned firms that employ few outsiders.

That has had pronounced effects for women because it reinforces the patriarchal norms that keep them at home.

In societies like India’s that place a high premium on family “honor” — which depends on female members’ reputations for chastity — letting an unmarried daughter work outside the home can seem risky because unsupervised contact with men could jeopardize her reputation.

The result is what Alice Evans, a lecturer at King’s College London, calls the “patrilineal trap”: Even many families that would like their daughters to have jobs are afraid of the reputational cost of being the first to try.

In many countries, Evans said, the patrilineal trap breaks when the economy creates enough well-paying, reliable jobs to make paid work extremely attractive. As more young women move to cities for jobs, the norms shift, and letting a daughter work no longer seems as risky. That’s what has started to happen in Bangladesh, for instance.

But in India, the trap is still too powerful for most to escape. That can have catastrophic consequences. Without a way to earn a living, many women cannot escape violent marriages. Marital rape is not criminalized in India, and thousands of women are killed each year by their husbands or in-laws.

If you were going to bet on a young woman to make it out of the trap, you might think Arti Kumari, the academic superstar of her village in Bihar, a rural state on the border with Nepal, would be a good one to back. When she was growing up, her friends and relatives used superlatives to describe her: the smartest, the strongest, the most determined.

While other girls in her village married in their late teens, Arti finished high school and enrolled in college. But there were few jobs near her home. And traveling to another city for work seemed too precarious: She and her family worried that she might be left with nothing if she took the financial and reputational risks of moving but then couldn’t land a good job or was fired.

Only federal government jobs, which effectively offer lifetime tenure in India, seemed to offer enough security to counterbalance the risks. Arti set her sights on winning one, but many other young people had the same idea. Since 2014, there has been an average of only three government jobs for every thousand young Indians pursuing one.

Arti took exam after exam, but she didn’t make the cut.

Meanwhile, the pressures of the trap grew stronger. Her family insisted on an arranged marriage. Her future mother-in-law, she knew, would expect her to stay home and care for the household.

But Arti pushed back. She negotiated delays to the wedding so she could study for more exams. Then, after the string of disappointments continued, she secured her fiancé’s promise to let her keep trying for a job after marriage.

When her wedding day dawned, Arti remained unemployed but determined.

“I want to get the job as soon as possible, so that I can be independent and stand on my own feet,” she said. “I won’t have to be dependent on my husband.”

For more: You can read India’s Daughters, a continuing series on this subject. And to receive the series’s final chapter and find out how Arti’s story ends, sign up for the Interpreter newsletter.

Israel-Hamas War

  • Israel’s military released videos of what it said was a fortified tunnel beneath the Shifa Hospital complex, bolstering its case that Hamas used the hospital for military operations.

  • Israeli also released videos that it said showed two hostages being taken inside the hospital on Oct. 7, the day of Hamas’s major attack.

  • Aid workers evacuated 31 premature babies in precarious health from Al-Shifa to a hospital in southern Gaza.

  • Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia hijacked a ship in the Red Sea, hours after threatening to target Israeli vessels. Israel’s military said no Israelis were on board.

  • Israel and Hamas are close to agreeing a pause in fighting of several days so hostages can be released, a White House official said.

  • For almost two decades, an Israeli peace activist and a Hamas official quietly maintained an informal line of communication. The Oct. 7 attacks ended that.

  • “They are alive, but they are not OK”: A Palestinian filmmaker in the U.S. is trying to keep in touch with his family in Gaza through communication blackouts. Watch our video.

Rosalynn Carter

Rosalynn and Jimmy Carter in 1976.Mikki Ansin/Getty Images
  • Rosalynn Carter helped propel her husband, Jimmy Carter, from rural Georgia to the White House. They were from the same small Georgia town and spent eight decades together. She died at 96.

  • “White House aides consider her the most influential First Lady since Eleanor Roosevelt,” The Times wrote in 1978. She attended cabinet meetings and security briefings.

  • Michelle Obama said Rosalynn Carter “reminded me to make the role of first lady my own.” Bill and Hillary Clinton said she would be remembered as “the embodiment of a life lived with purpose.”

  • See her life in photos from CBS News.

Politics

  • Greg Abbott, Texas’ governor, endorsed Donald Trump at an event near the southern border. “We need a president who’s going to secure the border,” Abbott said.

  • At a hearing today, Trump’s lawyers will challenge a gag order placed on him in his federal election case.

  • President Biden turns 81 today. Another birthday may offer a reminder of his age to an already skeptical electorate, writes Peter Baker.

Tech

  • OpenAI’s board of directors stood by its decision to push out its former chief executive, Sam Altman. Microsoft, an investor in the company, said it was hiring him to lead a research lab.

  • Kyle Vogt, the chief executive of the driverless carmaker Cruise, resigned. The company pulled its autonomous cars off the road last month after a series of problems.

New York

  • The Times examined 94 attacks in New York City by mentally ill homeless people and found failures by an underfunded social safety net.

  • The city and the state have paid out $110 million in settlements to people who were investigated by a police detective accused of rigging dozens of murder cases.

Other Big Stories

Javier Milei, Argentina’s president-elect.Cristina Sille/Reuters
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  • A man suspected of shooting to death three women and a 13-year-old girl in Memphis was found dead after an hourslong manhunt.

  • The fastest-growing places along the Atlantic coast are also among the most hurricane-prone.

  • “It’s a market of haves and have-nots”: America’s unique and ubiquitous 30-year fixed-rate mortgage is creating inequality between new buyers and established homeowners.

  • Laboratories in at least four U.S. states are investigating a mysterious respiratory illness in dogs.

Opinions

We need to recognize Malcolm X as a human being with flaws and vulnerabilities to truly understand his revolutionary legacy, Peniel E. Joseph writes.

Here are columns by David French on antisemitism and Jane Coaston on abortion.

At Badwater Basin.

Sudden life: Visitors flock to Death Valley for its heat and barren landscape. This fall, they’ve been drawn in by something else: a lake that appeared almost overnight.

Anxiety: It’s a good time to be a professional bedbug killer in Asia.

Last wish: A cancer patient wanted to help pay others’ medical debt. She has posthumously raised enough to erase $20 million.

New housing: In New York City’s financial district, families are filling empty offices.

Metropolitan Diary: Good shoes, good deed.

Lives Lived: Karel Schwarzenberg was a Czech prince who twice served as his country’s foreign minister, and quietly subverted aristocratic expectations. He died at 85.

Sunday Night Football: The Denver Broncos extended their winning streak with a comeback to beat the Minnesota Vikings, 21-20.

Around the N.F.L.: The Detroit Lions beat the Chicago Bears and improved their record to 8-2. And the San Francisco 49ers’ Brock Purdy had a perfect quarterback rating in his victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Here are takeaways.

M.L.B.: The Phillies re-signed the pitcher Aaron Nola in a seven-year, $172 million contract, taking a top pitcher off the free-agent market early.

U.N.C.: The North Carolina field hockey team won its second straight national title, this one with a 23-year-old first-time head coach who played on the team last year.

Travis Kelce and Jason Kelce.Wave Sports + Entertainment

Helmets off, mics up: The N.F.L. often suppresses individuality — players wear helmets, there’s a strict uniform policy and extravagant celebrations risk a fine. But an influx of more tolerant coaches, and more business-conscious players, has fostered a surprising trend: the football player podcast.

On shows like Travis and Jason Kelce’s “New Heights” and Von Miller’s “The Voncast,” players have a direct line to fans — and a way build their brands. “I think it’s fun and guys will keep doing it as long as there’s a thirst from the audience,” Jason Kelce said.

  • Police officers in London questioned the comedian Russell Brand in relation to three allegations of sexual offenses, according to British news outlets.

  • Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour has encountered tragedy and mishaps in Brazil. Two fans have died and a show was postponed.

If you’re cooking a fresh turkey for Thanksgiving, pick it up today. Or browse our nonturkey mains and vegetarian centerpieces. Make apple pie filling, if that’s on the menu. Shop for perishables.

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