Where are the ‘Pinks’ in the labour sector?

A Statistical head start to the issue of misrepresentation of women in the labour sector will direct us to a report by the International Labour Organisation that highlights a dip of about 8%, from 35% to 27%, in the years 1990 and 2014 respectively, in the participation of women in the labour force in India. According to global findings of a World Bank survey, the India stands at a rank 121 out of 131 nations in terms of participation of women in the labour sector much lower than most of its neighbours.   In reality, participation of women in Sri Lanka has remained stable at around 35%  for years, while Bangladesh continuously has over 50% women participation in the labour sector.

What is the main policy challenge?

According to recent data, Women tend to not do the manual labour in the agricultural sector, as rural revenues grow, which is acceptable. Even so, participation of women in the work force in rural regions is slightly higher than in urban areas. Simply put, Usually even with increased incomes, women prefer not to enter labour force.  While India progresses to urbanize, the complexities of incorporating women into the working force become more challenging. In India, the urban demographic growth ratio was 2.4 times of population growth in rural regions, if we compare 2001 to 2011 – substantially greatest in the national past. This is a system that we anticipate to intensify.

Willingness to work on the part of women isn’t an issue; neither do men pose a problem even as patriarchal structure in Indian society doesn’t cease to exist but the problem lies in the cities and their absence of hospitability towards women who attempt to enter this work force. Efficient administration of transitions from rural to urban and increasing the hospitability of cities towards females working are the main policy challenges that need to be tackled.

What prevents women from entering the labour force?

Our definition of women’s inclusion in the working population would inevitably cover a wide range of business experiences. Considering that the majority of India’s workforce is in the informal employment, involvement in the working population may be either “formal” or “informal.” Entrepreneurial tasks, such as running shops and local restaurants, may also be included in workforce participation. It is generally acknowledged that the contribution of many females in domestic chores to family economic efficiency and expense savings is seldom calculated appropriately.

 Nevertheless, the relevance of female involvement in the workforce outside the household must be recognised. The ability to work outside the home raises the intangible benefit of jobs and increases the probability of breaking patriarchal traditional gender roles that force people to stay home. Standard measurements of female employment are therefore essential in and of themselves, regardless of how imperfect the concept is.

With an economic standpoint, a female’s willingness to job is perceived as a result of weighing two trade-offs. Firstly, the net gain of joining the work force is believed to decline as gross family income rises; – i.e., if there is more income in the household, there are fewer opportunities to get an employment. Secondly, as the potential costs (psychic or financial) of leaving the house rise, the desire to engage in the labour force declines; that is, if it is especially hard to carry out required household chores while employed, a person is much less likely to be working outside of the household. These economic trade-offs, in fact, deal with urbanisation in a destructive manner, limiting female’s ability to join the working population.

Farm labour is traditionally close to the home in rural India, so there is a natural source of feminine jobs. In metro Cities, however, such a possible means of female’s jobs is uncommonly found close to the household. Fabrication is a male-dominated industry that is not only unpopular with females, but also discriminates against them during the recruitment process. This forces women in metro Cities to search for work far away from family. Regrettably, the lack of suitable transportation for females to commute long distances makes operating beyond the direct vicinity difficult. Women are less likely to reach the job market if they can’t get secure and reliable transportation to and from workplace in city environments, which have a detrimental impact on participation in the labour force.

Such issues help us understand why urban women, who are some of the most qualified in the nation, are very often unemployed. In theory, well-off and trained women being able to demand higher salaries and higher opportunities, making it easier for them to join the workforce. The elevated ‘expenses’ of joining the employment market could be the rational justification for poor female employment in cities.

Significant patterns emerge through official findings through valid questionnaires in Dhanbad, Patna, and Varanasi. Just 20-30 percent of adult females are (or ever have been) employed in all these three cities. According to the hypothesis of wage consequences, there is no proof that women are consciously leaving the workforce. We discovered that 60-70 percent of working-age women who may have never worked are likely to be working if given a skilled position. Unexpectedly, a comparable proportion of male participants felt that if a reasonable position is provided, a woman should be allowed to work.

In all of these three cities, fewer than 30percent of females, contrasted to even more than 40percent of males, felt “extremely comfortable” commuting alone at nighttime. Our provisional findings also suggest that expectations of fast, secure transportation are major factors of a female’s willingness to work. Taken collectively, it suggests that the town may be hostile to women who want to work, even though they have help at home.

What can be a possible solution?

The decline in female employment is a highly concerning pattern which must be addressed if India’s economic growth is to be accelerated. Traditional patriarchal stereotypes do prevail in India, but as mentioned here, women’s low labor participation rate is due to a variety of factors, one of which is how Indian cities deter women from working.

Essentially, females in urban India are not entering the workforce because the urban development fails them. According to the results, females want to work and their families help them in doing so, as long as they have reliable and secure transportation from and to work. Undoubtedly, new studies by Girija Borke has demonstrated how the security of Delhi Metro enabled many college going females to join top colleges far off from home. A related theory is essential to enhance more women participation in the workforce.

However, each Indian town’s problems are distinct and contextual. There seem to be a variety of highly complex variables that influence participation of girls, and extrapolating that much from limited information would be foolish. But according to my  readings, I would suggest that if the issue is addressed at the grass root level and we begin with the bottom up approach by looking at the very causes so as to why women aren’t as much there in the labour sector as the men, and then go on to address each one of them, step by step, may be that could help, solve a greater reserve of issues that we have at hand. For example, there could be provision for safer transport, doing away the gender based discriminations at the workplace, childcare welfare schemes to encourage mothers to work too and other such policy reforms could help.


Author: Sarah Azad from NMIMS School of Law, Bangalore.


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