A significant drop in the female labour contribution rate in the labour force has raised concerns in India. According to data from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation (MoSPI), India follows many African and Asian countries in terms of Female Labour Contribution to the workforce. COVID-19’s impact on employment has only worsened the situation.
An industry-wise study has reported that women’s contribution in agriculture and manufacturing has decreased, while the contribution of women in the service sector has witnessed a growth from 35.7% in 1977-78 to 64.7% in 2020-21. While nursing and teaching are considered the most suitable occupations for women in India, textile-related jobs have the highest share of urban women’s employment in the country, followed by domestic cleaning in the second place.
When a woman chooses domestic responsibilities over her career, she receives numerous social and cultural benefits and brings stability to society. However, society has usually overlooked the economic contribution of women and has extensively restricted their roles and participation in the labour force. According to the Periodic Labour Force Survey Report, female labour contribution has decreased by 7.8 % in the last six years.
How can we increase women’s labour force contribution as a part of society?
Give them the recognition they deserve
According to NITI Aayog, women spend three times more time than male unpaid care workers worldwide. Unsurprisingly, women in India spend 9.8 times more time on unpaid work than men. It is crucial to recognise women’s contributions to their families, offices and economic activities. Also, we as part of society should ensure that they are paid equally to men for their occupational work.
Encourage them to work and be self-dependent
Women are frequently found to be burdened more than men in terms of expectations related to tradition and religious practices. Though it is not widely discussed, the number of hours devoted to such activities can account for a significant portion of the day. Women should be encouraged around us to overcome the social shame and disgrace associated with working outside before they can work.
Raise voice against sexual harassment
NCRB ( National Crime Record Bureau) reported that 3.59 lakh cases of sexual harassment against women were registered in 2017. Safety concerns considerably influence women’s career choices and work participation decisions. Pregnancy and menstruation, as well as the shame associated with them, further disfavour women. We should become a voice for women around us who can not counter or fight back against male dominance and ensure that any injustice will not happen to women, especially in the workplace.
Measures to increase women’s contribution to the economy
McKinsey Global Institute reported that if women’s contribution to the Indian economy can be brought to the level of men’s contribution, the GDP can be uplifted by 60% annually. Therefore, the government and authorities, citizens, and civil societies should take steps to infuse gender equality in employment and labour contribution. The following steps should be extended to the next level.
Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) runs many ‘Sangini Centres” to offer inclusive child care for kids up to 5 years. With the help of its activists, these centres ensure that the child is receiving complete nutrition, a healthy environment and optimum childcare. Therefore, the number of such childcare centres should be considerably increased.
To increase the female labour contribution rate, bridging the digital gap is crucial. It can be achieved with actions to increase the affordability of computers and smartphones, boost digital literacy in women, and prepare women-centric technical content.
The pandemic has forced the corporate world to work remotely and we all witnessed the seamless work-life integration. Therefore, industries and corporations should come up with initiatives like extended maternity leave and flexibility to choose the workplace.
However, creating more and more job opportunities is today’s demand, and motivating more young women to establish businesses and become entrepreneurs is a long-lasting solution. Creating ample job opportunities, promoting innovation, advancing investment in education and healthcare facilities, and increasing women’s entrepreneurship could impact the economy and society positively.
The United Nations has taken an initiative named “Making Every Woman And Girl Count”. It was started in 2016, focusing on gender data, ensuring continuous production of authentic and equivalent gender statistics, and ensuring that data is easily available to all. The Indian government is required to take such steps that they can use such gender-based data while making policies.
The World Bank says, “No country can develop and achieve its full potential if half of its population is locked in non-remunerative, less productive and non-economic activities”. Consequently, in a country like India, where women’s education rate is less than men’s and the non-participation of half the population in economic activities is overlooked, we are missing the productivity growth, innovation and a much healthier economy.
As a society, we need to explore ways to modify modern workplaces to make them women-friendly. Making efforts for increased women’s participation in work will not only fuel economic growth but can also address pending problems related to injustice, poverty and undervaluation.