Labour

For Women in the Workforce, India Just Better Than Saudi Arabia Among G20 Nations

Some of the reasons for the weak situation of women in the work force include a decline in rural jobs, unequal pay, the burden of unpaid care work and the stubborn presence of regressive social practices.  

New Delhi: A new survey throws up a dismal picture, not just for the employment crisis in India but specifically for the crisis for women as labour. Not only are there fewer options for women in the work force, they’re also paid less than men. All this happens in an environment that is not conducive for women’s long-term participation.

This and more is discussed in a new report from Oxfam India titled ‘Mind the Gap: The State of Employment in India.’ This is a continuation of Oxfam’s report last year on inequality.

On the wage gap, women are paid 34% less than men who have similar qualifications and for the same tasks. According to government data from the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) for 2011-2012, women were paid a daily average of Rs 105 to Rs 123 less than males, in urban and rural areas, respectively.

Women are being “left out of the growth narrative,” says Oxfam India’s CEO Amitabh Behar. “Despite the rhetoric of job creation and ensuring gender justice, the reality is sobering on the ground,” he says.

Citing a NITI Aayog note, the report finds that women tend to be paid less, are over-represented in unpaid care work, they work in less productive jobs and and are engaged in vulnerable forms of employment.

Some of the reasons for the weak situation of women in the work force include a decline in rural jobs, unequal pay, the burden of unpaid care work and the stubborn presence of regressive social practices.

Also read: Labour Law Reforms: Why Informal Women Workers Might Feel Shortchanged

Women are worse off than men in several other ways 

According to recent news reports, unemployment reached a four-decade high of 6.1% in 2017-2018. While male participation in the labour force rose from 75.5% (2015-2016) to 76.8% (2016-2017), women’s participation declined from 27.4% to 26.9% in the same periods.

This means the already low participation of women in the work force – barely 27% – is falling further; 27% is the lowest among BRICS nations and India is only better than Saudi Arabia, among G20 countries.

The Seventh Central Pay Commission has recommended a monthly wage of Rs 18,000 per month, but 92% women were earning less than Rs 10,000 per month and for men, it is 82%.

Women’s unpaid care work and household work is not even categorised or counted as “work.” Currently the female labour force participation rate for 2011-2012 is 20.5%. If women’s unpaid care and household work was included in the NSSO’s definition of work, then the female labour force participation rate for 2011-2012 would rise from 20.5% to 81.7%.

It would then surpass that of men.

Also read: The Life of Labour: India’s Working Women; Workers at Statue of Unity Go on Strike

How does caste and religion affect the work of women? 

Gender, caste and class regulate how labour markets work.

Caste-determined occupations continue to be rigid in rural and urban India. Scheduled caste women are seen concentrated in the construction sector and in waste collection jobs. The report cites “Mahadalit” and “chamar” women who assist in child births, working as dais.

Non-scheduled caste women are more likely to work in health or education. Muslim women tend to largely be involved in household manufacturing.

75% of rural women are engaged in agriculture. “Dalit female labourers have borne the brunt of steadily declining agricultural employment,” says the report. Within agriculture, women are relegated to low-wage roles such as weeding, threshing and paddy transplantation.