The gender ladder to socio-economic transformation
- India is a poor in providing workforce for women.
- Government is to make respective manifestos talk of measures to create more livelihood opportunities in rural and urban areas, which include incentives to businesses for employing more women.
- Currently, the participation of women in the workforce in India is one of the lowest globally.
- The female labour force participation rate (LFPR) in India fell from 31.2% in 2011-2012 to 23.3% in 2017-2018.
- This decline has been sharper in rural areas, where the female LFPR fell by more than 11 percentage points in 2017-2018.
- Social scientists have long tried to explain this phenomenon, more so in the context of rising levels of education for women.
- There is a strong negative relationship between a woman’s education level and her participation in agricultural and non-agricultural wage work and in family farms.
- Essentially, women with moderately high levels of education do not want to do manual labour outside the household which would be perceived to be below their educational qualifications.
- The study also showed a preference among women for salaried jobs as their educational attainment increases; but such jobs remain extremely limited for women.
- It is estimated that among people (25 to 59 years) working as farmers, farm laborers and service workers, nearly a third are women, while the proportion of women among professionals, managers and clerical workers is only about 15% (NSSO, 2011-2012).
- In addition, women have strongly articulated the need to enumerate and remunerate the unpaid and underpaid work they undertake in sectors such as agriculture and fisheries.
- Their fundamental demand is that women must be recognised as farmers in accordance with the National Policy for Farmers; this should include cultivators, agricultural labourers, pastoralists, livestock rearers, forest workers, fish-workers, and salt pan workers.
- Thereafter, their equal rights and entitlements over land and access to inputs, credit, markets, and extension services must be ensured.
In what ways the issues can be solved?
- The answers can be found in a complex set of factors including low social acceptability of women working outside the household, lack of access to safe and secure workspaces, widespread prevalence of poor and unequal wages, and a dearth of decent and suitable jobs.
- Most women in India are engaged in subsistence-level work in agriculture in rural areas, and in low-paying jobs such as domestic service and petty home-based manufacturing in urban areas.
- But with better education, women are refusing to do casual wage labour or work in family farms and enterprises.
- Any government which is serious about ensuring women’s economic empowerment and equal access to livelihoods must address the numerous challenges that exist along this highly gendered continuum of unpaid, underpaid and paid work.
- A two-pronged approach must entail facilitating women’s access to decent work by providing public services, eliminating discrimination in hiring, ensuring equal and decent wages, and improving women’s security in public spaces.
- It must also recognise, reduce, redistribute, and remunerate women’s unpaid work.
- An action agenda document which has compiled a people’s agenda through extensive discussions across States, provides critical recommendations to policymakers on issues of concern to Dalits, tribal people, Muslims and other marginalized communities with a focus on the needs of women.
- On the question of work, women’s demands include gender-responsive public services such as free and accessible public toilets, household water connections, safe and secure public transport, and adequate lighting and CCTV cameras to prevent violence against women in public spaces and to increase their mobility.
- Furthermore, they want fair and decent living wages and appropriate social security including maternity benefit, sickness benefit, provident fund, and pension.