Over the past two decades, there has been a significant increase in women’s education globally, as well as declining fertility rates, both of which have resulted in increasing women’s participation in the paid labour force worldwide. Significant gains have been achieved. However, in the case of India, the situation is not reflecting the global pattern.
According to the Periodic Labour Force Survey, 2018-19, the Female labour force participation rate (LFPR) over 15 years of age is about 26.4 per cent in rural areas and less than 20.4 per cent in urban areas of India.
The Corona pandemic has widened the alreadylarge gap of inequality faced by women and girls over the years, affecting the efforts and progress made by the government towards gender equality.
Factors of both supply and demand have contributed to low levels of employment among women, including the burden of household responsibilities and the insufficient job opportunities, including reproductive roles played by women.
Causes of such deplorable condition of women
Working women often fear being stigmatized by the entire community, which may mark their work as inferior. Often, the work of women is seen in our male-dominated society as the inability of their husbands.
Apart from this, such an orthodox notion is also very strong in Indian society, which believes that a woman’s place is confined only to the home and kitchen and if a woman steps outside the socially sanctioned boundaries, it will be a dent on our culture.
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Another reason is a sharp decline in agricultural employment in the country in the last three decades, whereas in comparison rural non-agricultural employment and livelihood opportunities have not increased to that level. In such a situation, people are moving away from agriculture to informal and casual employment, where the work is quite sporadic and often less than 30 days.
Statistics indicate that the reasons for the decline in female Labour-force participation rate (LFPR) include the transfer of women from paid work to unpaid work, as a result, women are not counted as ‘workers’and they are out of the labour force, even if they engage in unpaid work in family enterprises (such as agriculture, animal husbandry, grocery stores, and handmade products, etc.).
It is seen on many occasions that women who are also included in the labour force remain out of the purview of most labour laws of the country due to the nature of their employment, including the recently passed Social Security Code. This automatically excludes women engaged in self-employment and informal employment under these labour protection laws, which constitutes more than 90 per cent of the total female workforce in the country.
Also, most of the land in agriculture is registered in the name of men, so that women are not even recognized as farmers, whereas most of the women in rural areas in the country are involved in agricultural work.Due to the non-registration of land in the name of women, women often do not get the benefit of various schemes and facilities introduced by the government such as cheap loans and cash transfers etc.
What can be done?
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Reduction in gender participation is a result of socio-economic issues and this challenge can be easily dealt with by changing behaviour. This will be possible only when women are given more and more leadership roles.Thus there is a need to ensure equal representation through special provisions and quotas at all levels and sectors from corporate boards to parliament, from higher education to public institutions.
Significant investment needs to be made in the economy and social security in terms of care, GDP needs to be redefined to recognize women working domestically.
To ensure full participation and inclusion of women in the economy, the barriers facing them need to be removed, including access to the labour market and rights in the property, and targeted loans and investments, etc.
The government-initiated women-oriented initiatives like ‘BetiBachao, BetiPadhao’ and ‘Kiran’ (knowledge participation in research development through teaching) scheme seem to step in the right direction.
Besides, the Government should develop an Emergency Response Plan to address the issue related to violence against women and girls, and that action plan with the necessary finances, policies and political will to end this crisis.