Harvard economist Claudia Goldin has been honoured
with the 2023 Nobel Prize in Economics, making her the third female economist to receive this prestigious award. Notably, she is the sole recipient of this accolade, without any shared credit. Goldin’s groundbreaking research earned her this recognition; her comprehensive analysis of women’s earnings and labour market participation throughout history has shed light on the root causes of wage disparities and the persistent gender gap.
Primarily focused on the U.S. economy, Goldin’s research findings hold universal relevance. Her influential 1990 book, “Understanding the Gender Gap: An Economic History of American Women,” meticulously examined the origins of wage inequality, with a particular emphasis on the transformative 1970s era. During this period, women in the United States delayed marriage, pursued higher education,
and made significant strides in the labour market. Accessible birth control played a pivotal role, eliminating a compelling reason for early marriage and enabling women to explore identities beyond traditional domestic roles.
Goldin’s work also introduced the concept of the “greedy work” phenomenon, a term she coined in her research. This phenomenon reflects the disproportionate payment individuals receive for working longer hours or having limited control over their schedules. Goldin identified this as a barrier, penalizing women who require flexible work hours due to their additional responsibilities at home, including caregiving for aging family members and children.
Furthermore, Goldin challenged conventional wisdom by highlighting the complex relationship between education, efficiency, and wage levels, especially for women. Contrary to the widely held belief that higher education equates to equal pay, Goldin’s research revealed disparities persist, necessitating a revaluation of existing notions.
Considering India’s dwindling female labour force participation, Goldin’s insights are particularly pertinent. The Indian government must address this issue to fully harness the nation's economic potential. Notably, Madan Sabnavis, Chief Economist at Bank of Baroda, has proposed affirmative action measures, citing SEBI’s successful
initiative mandating companies to include at least one-woman directors on their boards. Similar policies, coupled with reduced tax rates for women, could prove effective.
However, societal progress is paramount, requiring a collective shift in mindset for substantial and lasting change. India stands to gain significantly from embracing Goldin’s insights, fostering a more inclusive and equitable workforce.