Context: India’s high economic growth has been of little value for its under-acknowledged female workers.
More on the news:
- The year 2020 marks the anniversary of following two major events concerning the status of women.
- The nearly fifty years since the Committee on the Status of Women in India (CSWI) submitted the report ‘Towards Equality’ to the United Nations (UN).
- It focused on women-sensitive policymaking in India, providing a fresh perspective on gender equality.
- The 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, which is a benchmark for analyzing the condition of women and State-led empowerment.
The status of women’s work in India
- Workforce participation:
- India’s female employment trends do not resonate with its high economic growth, low fertility, and rise in female schooling.
- Between 2004 and 2018 unlike the shrinking gender gap in educational attainment, the gender gap in workforce participation increased. It demonstrates one of the lowest labour participation rates for women, which have been consistently declining since 1950.
- Dramatic fall in absolute employment:
- The recently released Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), 2018-19 indicates a dramatic fall in absolute employment for men and more so for women.
- 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%.
- Poor worldwide Rankings:
- 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.
- 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.
- Women in agriculture:
- The agriculture employs nearly 60% of women, who form the bulk of landless labourers in an almost completely informal sector, with no credit access, subsidies, little equipment, and abysmal asset ownership.
- According to IndiaSpend, only about 13% of women tillers owned their land in 2019.
- Status of women in other sectors of the economy:
- Manufacturing employs (almost completely informally) only around 14% of the female labour force.
- The service sector sees women disproportionately involved in care-work. According to the National Sample Survey (NSS) 2005, over 60% of the 4.75 million domestic workers are women.
- Women disproportionately populate India’s informal economy and are concentrated in low-paid, highly precarious jobs.
- COVID-19 fallout
- The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) showed that 39% of women lost their jobs in April and May compared to 29% of men.
- India’s strikingly unequal gender division of household work has also worsened during the pandemic.
- Women spend (an unpaid) three times (as per NSS) or even six times (as per OECD) more time than men in household work.
- According to the World Health Organization, 70% of the world’s healthcare and social workers are women.
Insensitivity of recent labour codes
- India has recently passed three labour codes, on occupational safety, health and working conditions, on industrial relations, and on social security.
- The laws are expected to transform labour relations, but they only end up ‘easing business’.
- These 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.
- No accountability:
- 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:
- It is 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, and offering little incentive to adopt long-awaiting older children.
The recent labour codes needs to be relooked upon as 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.
Beijing Platform for Action
- The 1995 4th World Conference on Women (WCW), held in Beijing, was one of the largest ever gatherings of the United Nations, and a critical turning point in the world’s focus on gender equality and the empowerment of women.
- It marked a significant turning point for the global agenda for gender equality. The Beijing Declaration was adopted unanimously by the UN at the end of the 4th WCW.
- The Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, adopted unanimously by 189 countries, is an agenda for women’s empowerment and considered the key global policy document on gender equality.