A couple of years back chief of IMF (International Monetary Fund), Christine Lagarde said that equal participation of women in the workforce would increase India’s GDP by 27%. The National Sample Survey suggests that the participation of women in the workforce has reduced from 27% to 21% during the 2004-11 period and several studies after that have found it to be stagnating after that. The main reasons to understand the low female participation in the workforce has never been easy for the scholars or analysts in the case of India where the cultural mindset of people defines their behavior more than the laws of economics.
Yet, they have tried to define it because of the Economic reforms of 1991 to find out if it is the reforms to be blamed. In this article, I will try to understand the reason for a stagnating workforce for women in India and try to get together with their core issues that cause the development of a fixed mindset.
First, we must understand which workforce I am talking about. I am talking about the workforce participation in which the people who are employed or willing to work but not who are skilled but not ready to work. International Labour organization has released a report on women’s work participation. Middle East, Africa, and south-east countries have reasonable figures. In India, it is reduced from 34.1% to 27.2%. In rural areas condition is more worst, in urban areas reasonable progress is there.
Women’s work participation depends on many factors like educational availability, employment opportunities, falling fertility rates, and social norms. It is also true that if more education space is created then they are more eligible to seek employment. India doesn’t have issue with labors but we have been lagging in terms of skilled labor.
The first challenge before women comes in the form of tradition and culture. In our society, it is supposed not to work by women especially in rural area. When Mughal came to India they brought the ‘purdah system’ in our society. That system is still existing in our society. Elders doesn’t allow to get rid from these things. Besides, the stagnating women work force participation can be attributed to the Indian societal beliefs where women are married early in their lives, their primary job is doing household chores and reproduction. Education is not given prime importance and safety concerns of family due to an ever-increasing crime rate are factors that explain a 23% drop out of girl child from schools. This high drop rate reduces their employability in the future.
Secondly, they have to face challenges like lack of resources and educational environment around the society. This is also true that parents may not show interest if employment opportunities are rare to educate a girl. Now a day everything has become business oriented. Today parents anticipate the job environment first and then they become ready to invest into it further. For example, after evaluating today’s scenario of engineering parent drag himself in sending their girls for engineering field.
Historically, they were the ones who would provide the services like caring and nurturing the child, saving the families from attacks etc. With the growth of civilisation, their biological features like Pregnancy and Menstruation and the frequent occurrences of the former have confined them to their habitats where they were still found to be working.
Thirdly, many women are stopped not going for jobs after marriage. There are two kinds of reasons behind it. First who don’t want to send their newly married wife just for the sake of tradition and culture. This is only one part of it. I have talked about it. Second kind of people who are willing to send but due to social circumstances they prohibit themselves. It is so because some cases of different kinds of harassment have been found in different job professions. No doubt our laws showed their presence with great effort. But due to the long process of the justice system and lengthy procedures, people find themselves not to send instead of getting into that stuff.
Fourthly, one more important thing is related to the health of women. It also plays a kind of significant role in their participation at the workforce. It is believed in multinational companies that once appointed, female is mostly avoided by the managers who don’t want women in their team as the women go for menstruation periods once every month which would mean giving them frequent breaks that would make their male counterparts to complain over the less availability of breaks for them. Further, the pregnancy of women requires a 26 week long paid maternity leave to women which is a direct loss to a company and the lack of a law that allows a paternity leave to fathers is an advantage for employing men over women.
Fifthly, apart from that a kind of stereotype environment is created in industries also. It is believed that men being the ‘Ideal worker’ who can work all 365 days while women cannot. Such stereotypes don’t take the different biology of a woman into account. Besides, the safety concerns during their transportation and sexual offenses in the company premises give disincentive to workplaces in employing women. Some industries which are in the business of entertainment find that women can be projected along with the products to increase the product’s sale ability while they can be paid less than Man due to their not being an ‘ideal worker’. The phenomenon can be observed in Cinema and other industries and can also be seen in some sports like Cricket where top women players get the same amount of money as bottom Men players.
Apart from above challenges there are some questions which shows their effective presence in our society. There exists no other explanation on some significant questions like why women reservation bill for membership in the Parliament and the State legislature is pending or on why women in India is not in combat roles in Armies whereas they form 33% and 50% of combat soldiers in the US and Israel respectively. If we see they are many women who have been contributing their best part for our country. Activists like Medha Patekar and Irom Sharmila who have been contributing their best part for the social services.
The rise of women as top executives in SBI, ICICI, PepsiCo and as Chief Ministers of four states of four directions in India will encourage the upcoming generation to come up for their own rights. Even efforts taken by government would also play an important role in eradicating the fixed mindset and create beautiful environment. Several efforts taken by government in terms of beti padhao beti bachao, sukanya smridhi yojana, providing antenatal and prenatal care in JSY, The Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana, Priyadarshini , mother and child tracking schemes. Increasing paid maternity leave upto 26 weeks is a welcome step by the government.
The idea of gender budgeting is innovative to target women at grassroots levels. Increasing entrepreneurial capacities by Mahila E-haat setting role models by rewarding Nari shakti puruskar. I hope these kinds of significant efforts of government will help in eradicating issues and promote the women to participate in the same workforce.