A widening gap
- Even prior to 2020, the gender employment gap was large. Only 18% of working-age women were employed as compared to 75% of men. Reasons include a lack of good jobs, restrictive social norms, and the burden of household work.
- Our recently released report, State of Working India 2021: One Year of Covid-19 shows that the pandemic has worsened the situation.
Gender gap in India: –
- Gender employment gap is large in India. Only 18% of working-age women were employed as compared to 75% of men.
- Reasons include a lack of good jobs, restrictive social norms, and the burden of household work.
- According to the report, ‘State of Working India 2021: One Year of Covid-19’ the pandemic has worsened the situation.
- Data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy Pvt. Ltd. show that 61% of male workers were unaffected during the lockdown while only 19% of women experienced this kind of security.
- Even by the end of the year, 47% of employed women who had lost jobs during the lockdown, had not returned to work. The equivalent number for men was only 7%.
- Men were able to regain the jobs even though at lower prices but in the case of women.
- From the data available around 33% of formal salaried men moved into self employment and 9% into daily wage work between late 2019 and late 2020.
- Whereas women had far fewer options — only 4% and 3% of formal salaried women moved into self employment and daily wage work, respectively.
- Nearly 50 percent of women withdrew from the worforce as comapred to just 7 percent of men. Also women had less avenues for self-employment and were forced to settle for daily wage labourers.
- Women tended to lose work disproportionately irrespective of the industry in which they were employed.
- For instance, the share of women in job losses in education was three times their share in that industry. This is also evident from health sector.
Growing domestic work
- The household responsibilitiesincreased for women with the closure of schools and workplaces.
- The India Working Survey 2020 found that among employed men, the number of hours spent on paid work remained more or less unchanged after the pandemic. But for women, the number of hours spent in domestic work increased manifold.
- This increase in hours came without any accompanying relief in the hours spent on paid work.
The course to take
- The following measures are needed now: expansion of the Mahatma GandhiNational Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and the introduction of an urban employment guarantee targeted to women as soon as the most severe forms of mobility restrictions are lifted.
- Co-ordinated efforts by States to facilitate employment of women while also addressing immediate needs through the setting up of community kitchens, prioritising the opening of schools and anganwadi centres, and engagement with self-help groups for the production of personal protective equipment kits.
- COVID-19 hardship allowance of at least Rs5,000 per month for six months should be announced for 2.5 million accredited social health activists and Anganwadi workers, most of whom are women.
- The National Employment Policy,should systematically address the constraints around the participation of the women’s workforce, both with respect to the availability of work and household responsibilities.
Impact on Livelihoods and Economic Slowdown
- The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown restrictions caused unprecedented job losses.
- The quantity and quality of employment opportunities both deteriorated and are estimated to not have returned anywhere close to the pre-pandemic numbers yet.
- Amit Basole (2021) wrote:
Many surveys investigating the COVID-19 impact on vulnerable workers, including ours, have shown that around 60%–80% of workers (self-employed, casual as well as salaried workers without job security) lost employment during the lockdown in April and May 2020.
The CMIE data show that the lockdown affected around 43% of the national workforce.
Even as late as December 2020, both CMIE data and our survey showed that 20% of those who lost work during the lockdown were unemployed (Abraham and Basole 2021; Nath et al 2021). Women and younger workers were much more likely to lose their jobs and less likely to recover (Abraham et al 2021).
There was also an increase in informality during this period, with previously salaried workers returning to the labour market as self-employed or casual workers (Abraham and Basole 2021).
Way Forward: –
- Universal basic services programme that fills existing vacancies in the social sector but also expands public investments in health, education, child and elderly care can be implemented.
- These measures can help bring women into the workforce not only by directly creating employment for them but also by alleviating some of their domestic work burdens, while also overcoming nutritional and educational deficits.
“For millions of workers, no income means no food, no security and no future. As the pandemic and the jobs crisis evolve, the need to protect the most vulnerable becomes even more urgent.” — Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General
Women who are poor and marginalized face an even higher risk of COVID-19 transmission and fatalities, loss of livelihood, and increased violence. Discuss.