According to the International Monetary Fund, women’s participation in the workforce could significantly increase India’s GDP. A McKinsey Global Institute study calculated that the economic impact of achieving gender equality in India is estimated to be US $700 billion of added GDP by the year 2025.
According to a report published by the International Labour Force Organization in 2018, the percentage of Female Labour Force participation fell from 36.7% in 2005 to a mere 26% in 2018. The report also highlighted that about 95% of women work in the unorganised sector or do unpaid work. Approximately 77% of working women in India remain locked out of the labour market.
Whereas the ‘Global Gender Gap Report 2017’, released by the World Economic Forum, which covers equality in health, education, economics and politics, ranks India at 139 out of 144. There is a systematic devaluation of jobs dominated by women and the occupational segregation cannot be missed. According to a 2014 report, there is a disparity of wages between men and women, even in corporate India. Women earn less than 1/3rd of the average salary of men in India, which is a clear demonstration of gendered hierarchy.
There is a multitude of challenges for women in India ranging from lack of quality education and formal skill development to facing harassment at the workplace. These factors are majorly responsible and restrict girls from gaining decent employment and even though there are various legislations – they fail to protect women and further prevent women from entering the workplace. A set of underlying social, economic and political barriers play a huge role in limiting opportunities for women.
Much of women’s work is either in the informal sector which doesn’t pay much or they have unpaid care responsibilities. One major argument is that who will take care of the family? It’s normalized for women in Indian societies to be family-centric and always be burdened with looking after their family.
Married men spend 1 to 20% of their non-leisure time on childcare while for married women, this percentage is as high as 14 to 42%. In ageing societies, it’s not just about childcare, but also about taking care of the elderly. The burden of family care falls disproportionately on women, and according to the United Nations, women undertake three times more unpaid work than men and spend about half as much time in paid work.
The percentage of Female Labour Force participation fell from 36.7% in 2005 to a mere 26% in 2018.
In India, according to the OECD, women spend an average of 352 minutes a day on unpaid work as opposed to 52 minutes of daily unpaid work by men. With regards to unpaid care work, women in India spend an average of 297 minutes a day on tasks such as taking care of children, the elderly and the sick; in comparison, men spend 31 minutes a day on the same tasks. The perception that women should not leave the private sphere in the absence of fiscal needs reinforces unpaid care work.
Occupational segregation is another major barrier that restricts women. Most working women in India work in industries such as agriculture, textile and domestic services. Women are over-represented in ‘low-value’ and unskilled occupations.
Gender segregation is prominent in Indian families from a young age. Girls are encouraged to pick up domestic chores while boys are encouraged to study and earn. This segregation not only prevents women from joining the workforce but also pressurises men into being the sole money earning member.
Among the usual category of workers, the sectoral distribution by gender indicates that while 63% of women are engaged in the agricultural sector in contrast with 56% of men who are engaged in the secondary or tertiary sectors.
About 73% of the workers (usual and subsidiary status) were engaged in the following three occupation divisions, which are:
(i) Skilled agriculture and fishery works
(ii) Craft related trades
(iii) Elementary occupations
Within the former statistic – 68% of men and 83% of women were involved in these works. However, it should be noted that managerial, skill and trading roles, extraction and building positions were mostly held by men while fisheries and crafts-based vocations were taken upon by women.
The gender wage gap between men and women remains high even after higher education–a graduate woman is paid Rs 609, on an average, across sectors while a man with a graduate or higher degree will earn Rs 805, according to the government’s ‘Men and Women in 2017’ report.
Women undertake three times more unpaid work than men and spend about half as much time in paid work.
Traditionally, women were always locked into stereotypical roles. Although the attitude towards this is changing, not many are willing to offer positions to women in C-Exec positions, till today. The roles have been skewed towards men and hence made it impossible for women to make room for themselves. Even in cases where women have been able to break through the glass ceiling, they’ve had to go the extra mile to get that position.
Although women have attained equal rights on paper, when it comes to acceptance from society, women still have a long way to go. There’s this new group called ‘woke’ men who boast about how they ‘allow’ their wives to work and have a life of their own. Keep in mind that every government form that we fill requires us to fill our father’s and/or husband’s name – as if to establish ownership.
Research has been able to prove that women take a major pay hit when they have kids, but on the other hand, men get a salary bump during impending fatherhood. The reason for this is quite transparent: men are seen as serious hard workers, labouring to support their family. Women, on the other hand, are seen as mothers first and then an employee who might be serious about her career. This pressures women into scaling back or even quitting their jobs when they become mothers.
A part of the solution lies in strong laws and governance. However, a bigger part and role is that of society. The main challenge is that of building a society that recognizes women as autonomous beings, neither opportunity nor chattel, just people.