Gender Equality in Labour markets

  • IASbaba
  • November 25, 2022
  • 0
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  • As the world hits a population milestone of 8 billion, India is all set to become the world’s most populous country in 2023, much before 2027, as predicted earlier by the United Nations Population Division.
  • India is poised to gain a massive number of working-age individuals in the next 25 years, almost every fifth in the world.
  • Such a huge potential of human resources will not benefit Indian economy, unless we are able to enhance women’s participation on a significant scale.

Challenges for females:

  • Low Female labour force participation rate (FLFPR)
  • India was placed at 140 of 156 countries in 2021 by The Global Gender Gap Report of the World Economic Forum.
  • Further, it remains in declining mode, having fallen from 30.5% in 2000 to 21.1% in 2019, and 18.6% in 2020, by International Labour Organisation figures;
  • It hit a record low of 15.5% during the first covid lockdown when many urban women either quit or lost their jobs
  • Non-diverse growth: A 2020 research study observed that a structural shift and sectoral transformation in the Indian economy (1983-2018) made no impact on the pattern of women’s employment in India, both quantitatively and qualitatively.
  • In terms of absolute numbers, it decreased from 148.6 million in 2004-05 to 104.1 million in 2017-18.
  • Overdependence on agriculture: With little space for job diversification, women continued to overcrowd the agriculture sector, despite its declining share of the economy. Non-farm sectors did not open many opportunities for them.
  • Workplace Discrimination: 90% of working women are in the informal sector and hence, they are subject to high degrees of gender discrimination in wages, job and social security.
  • Oxfam India’s India Discrimination Report 2022 – wages are lower for women overwhelmingly because of discriminatory practices and only slightly due to lack of education and work experience.
  • In 2019-20, about 60% of men (aged 15 years and above) had either regular salaried and self-employed jobs, while only 20% for women.
  • Social hurdles: A significant number of qualified women were found unwilling to join the labour market due to ‘family responsibilities’.
  • The Economic Survey of 2020, 60% of women in the 15-59-years age group are engaged in full-time housework, as compared to 1% of men.
  • 84% of Indians agree to the view that in a situation of job scarcity, “men have more right to opportunities than women”.
  • Low GDP Contribution: Bloomberg Economics analysis estimated that though Indian women represent 48% of India’s population, they contribute only around 17% of GDP, compared to 40% in China.
  • Other factors: Several cross-cutting factors like a disproportionate burden of child care, an income effect, logistical barriers of mobility and safety, and socio-cultural norms around marriage, etc, have also acted as deterrents to Indian women entering our labour market.
  • A 2019 UNDP study – India has so far seen only a downward trend in women’s workforce participation as their education has risen, and that combined participation (labour market and/or educational) covered only 55-60% of young working age women.

Suggestions for future:

  • India’s trend of female labour supply doesn’t follow a U-shaped curve in keeping with the typical pattern of GDP growth and a rise in female literacy; there is a persistent demand-supply mismatch which must be addressed.
  • Increase participation in STEM: even though 43% of India’s Science, Technology, engineering, and Math (STEM) graduates were women, only 14% of the STEM workforce is female (AISHE Report).
  • Fill Academia-Industry gap: Better educational achievements have not necessarily converted to women’s sustained workforce participation.
  • Investment in social sectors: Many Asian countries like Singapore, Taiwan, China and South Korea have harnessed the benefits of a growing youth population by imparting quality education and industry-relevant skills, and offering the youth good health services.
  • India’s investment in education is 3.1% of GDP (2021-22), and only 1% on health.
  • There is high level of unfulfilled requirements for reproductive health services (by the National Family Health Survey of 2019-21).
  • Focus on skilling: Only 4.7% of India’s total workforce have undergone any formal skills training (3.8% of adult women and 9.3% of adult men, by NSSO’s 68th round).
  • Skill programmes in India also suffer from a gender bias, which reinforces our labour market imbalance.
  • Securing their future: Employed women are at greater risk of being displaced by automation, as a McKinsey Global Institute report cautioned.
  • Gender differentials in access to education and skill development must be removed on a priority basis
  • Social infrastructure to relieve women from their ‘double burden’ of work should be expanded, and a ‘women-friendly’ work culture fostered.

Way forward:

  • India expects to gain eight million youth annually. Unless this human capital, particularly of women, is optimally utilized, our economy will perform worse than it can.
  • An Asian Development Bank study said that if the participation of women were to equal that of men, India’s GDP could be 60% higher in 2025.
  • India has an ambitious Amrit Kaal target of having half its workforce female by 2047.

Source: LiveMint


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