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India wants to be the next China. 500 million women hold the key

New Delhi CNN —

India, the world’s fastest growing majoreconomy, is not firing on all cylinders.

That’s a problem for Narendra Modi, who has just won a third consecutive five-year term as prime minister, although without a simple majority.

The 73-year-old wants to make the country a $5 trillion economy before the end of the current decade. His plans for reform have been complicated by the narrower-than-expected election victory, and there are major challenges ahead.

One entrenched problem standing in the way of India’s superpower ambitions is the lack of jobs for hundreds of millions of citizens, particularly women.

There are over 460 million women of working age in India — more than the entire population of the European Union — and they are more educated, aspirational and healthier than any previous generation.

But their dreams are clashing against a harsh reality.

A construction worker carries metal rods during the construction of an elevated water tank in Ajmer on January 30, 2024.

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Take Gunasri Tamilselvan, 22, who fears having to quit the job that she loves.

The engineering graduate started working at Finnish electronics manufacturer Salcomp’s factory in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu last year. Tamilselvan is part of a sought-after team making mobile chargers for major smartphone brands, but she has had to fight both at home and at work for her right to be financially independent.

And now, she is running out of time. Her family wants to arrange a marriage for her as soon as possible. In South Asia, it is still a norm for parents find spouses for their children.

“My father has not been very comfortable with my work,”