SOCIETY/ GOVERNANCE/ ECONOMY
Topic: General Studies 1, 2 ,3:
- Role of women in society and their associated issues.
- Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
- Inclusive growth and issues arising from it.
Context: The year 2020 marks the anniversary of two major events concerning the status of women.
- First, it is nearly fifty years since the Committee on the Status of Women in India (CSWI) submitted the report ‘Towards Equality’ to the United Nations (UN), which focused on women-sensitive policymaking in India, providing a fresh perspective on gender equality.
- Second, it is the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, a benchmark for analysing the condition of women and State-led empowerment.
Issues of Women’s Economic Participation
- Economic Growth not translating into employment: India’s female employment trends do not resonate with its high economic growth, low fertility, and rise in female schooling.
- Declining Female Labour Force Participation rate: Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), 2018-19 shows that women faced a decline in labour participation rates (from 2011 to 2019) in rural areas from 35.8% to 26.4%, and stagnation in urban areas at around 20.4%.
- Low Global Ranking: Furthermore, the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report ranks India at 149 among 153 countries in terms of women’s economic participation and opportunity.
- Wage Gap: The gender wage gap is the highest in Asia, with women 34% below men (for equal qualification and work), according to a 2019 Oxfam report. This stifles women’s labour force participation, despite the guarantees of India’s Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.
- Feminisation of Agriculture: Agriculture that is an almost completely informal sector employs nearly 60% of women, who form the bulk of landless labourers, with no credit access, subsidies, little equipment, and lack of social security measures.
- Abysmal Land ownership: Only about 13% of women tillers owned their land in 2019.
- Low participation in Manufacturing Sector: Manufacturing employs (almost completely informally) only around 14% of the female labour force.
- Care work dominates Women’s participation in Service Sector: According to the National Sample Survey (NSS) 2005, over 60% of the 4.75 million domestic workers are women.
- Unequal gender division of household work: Women spend (an unpaid) three times (as per NSS) or even six times (as per OECD) more time than men in household work.
- Overburdened Healthcare work: According to WHO, 70% of the world’s healthcare and social workers are women. In India, women are indispensable as frontline ASHA workers, but they are underpaid and overworked.
- Disproportionate impact of Pandemic: In India, the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) showed that 39% of women lost their jobs in April and May compared to 29% of men, in the context of the ongoing pandemic.
Criticism of recently passed three labour codes w.r.t women issues
- The laws are expected to transform labour relations, but they only end up ‘easing business’.
- The codes acknowledge neither the gender wage gap nor non-payment of wages and bonuses, and ignore informal (mostly women) workers in terms of social security, insurance, provident fund, maternity benefits, or gratuity.
- Though ‘allowing’ women to work night shifts, there is little focus on accountability and responsibility
- Even protection from sexual harassment at workplace is missing.
- Maternity benefits remain unchanged from the 2017 amendment, with an insensitively formulated adoption leave policy that grants leave to women who adopt infants under the age of three months, ignoring that most children are much older at the time of adoption.
- The recent labour codes disregard women’s work conditions.
- Gender cannot be wished away, since every policy and code affects a giant proportion of India’s workforce — both paid and unpaid, acknowledged and unacknowledged.