New Delhi: A recent study conducted by the World Bank has found that for job advertisements in India that specify a preferred gender, six out of every ten advertisement explicitly state that men will be given a preference in hiring over women. The study is based on data from over 800,000 advertisements on online job portal Babajob.com (which has now merged with QuikrJobs), between 2011 and 2017.
It has been a cause for concern for a while now that the female labour force participation rate in India is one of the lowest in the world and is actually declining – in the first four months of 2017, for instance, 2.4 million Indian women stopped being employed. This study reinforces the demand side of this problem – that people doing the hiring still often assume that a man will be able to do the job better.
One-third of the advertisements the researchers looked at specified a gender preference, and 60% of this one-third said a man would be preferred. Men were commonly preferred for mechanised jobs such as driving and garment sector jobs, sales work and elementary jobs such as gardening, guard duty and delivery persons.
The authors found that the jobs ads that preferred women were “low-quality, low-status jobs, typically low-paid informal jobs”. The outcome of this kind of advertisements is a segregated labour market, the authors write.
“Our analysis suggests jobs for positions in sales, retail clerk, office helper, high-intensive outdoor labor work such as laborer, gardener, watchman, delivery collection, and machine-related tasks such as garment worker, machinist, and driver are considered as male jobs. Among indoor low-end jobs, cook and steward are male jobs. On the other hand, women are disproportionately more preferred in household elementary jobs and caregiving jobs, as well as beautician and receptionist positions. Among professional jobs, teaching and management are relatively female jobs, and engineering and IT profession are considered male jobs.”
BPO jobs stood out in the study. Not only was it the sector with the highest proportion of jobs advertised (19%), it also had the most gender neutral postings, with only 14% of advertisements specifying a gender preference.
The male bias doesn’t stop at just the quality of job, but extends into pay as well, the study has found. Looking within the pool of gender-specific job advertisements, the researchers found that employers who preferred women on average offered a salary ten percentage points lower than the average salary offered by employers who preferred men. In each occupation group other than ads for clerical jobs, ads targeted at women offered lower salaries than ads targeting men.
One of the concerning factors that researchers have pointed out in the past is that even though the educational level of girls is on the rise, this is not translating into a larger female labour force. As Namita Bhandare reported, “The logical link that education should lead to jobs is broken in India. In rural India, 67% of girls who are graduates do not work. In towns and cities, 68.3% of women who graduate don’t have paid jobs.”
Here’s another confusing statistic to add to that: the 2011 National Sample Survey reported that over one-third of urban women and half of urban women who engage mainly in housework want a paying job.
There have been several explanations given for why this strange state of affairs has come to be in India. Societal expectations rank high on that list – while a man is supposed to be the breadwinner, a women’s duties are assumed to be confined to the unpaid work she does at home, which isn’t hardly ever recognised as work at all. Often, if a women wants to go beyond that, she is required to have the explicit consent of the people around her – something that would never even be imagined for a man. Even once she does have that consent, it’s not an easy path to a job, Bhandare reported; there are concerns such as how she will get to her workplace, the hours she will be away from home, how far she will travel, etc.
And that’s just on the supply side, where the will to work is hard to translate into actually getting a job. Add to that the demand side problem like the one highlighted in the World Bank study, and you realise just how much will have to change if India wants to take its female labour force participation problem seriously.