According to the World Economic Forum’s “Global Gender Gap Report 2017” about Women Empowerment, India’s ranking has fallen by 21 places from last year. Not only are we currently far below the global average but also behind our neighbours China and Bangladesh.
A pessimistic account –
- In terms of contribution to gross domestic product (GDP), women are currently under-represented. At 17%, India has a lower share of women’s contribution to GDP than the global average of 37%. This is a bad figure for Women Empowerment in India.
- The participation levels have been dropping in the last few years. The National Sample Survey found that while in 1999-2000, 25.9% of all women worked; by 2011-12 this proportion had dropped to 21.9%.
An optimistic development –
- With rising household income, women now have the opportunity to choose leisure over work, especially in agricultural sectors and on construction sites, and focus on their families. However, research has shown that when women have access to more work opportunities, they gladly take them.
- The India Human Development Survey highlighted that the provision of work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) brought more rural women into wage labour.
- According to an International Labour Organisation study, the participation of women in informal employment and non-standard forms of employment (for eg. part-time jobs or jobs in the informal sector) is higher than men.
The menace of informal sector contributing to opposite of women empowerment –
- Nearly 100% of net job creation in the last two decades in India has happened in the informal sector in small and low-productivity enterprises. An average Indian woman worker is at a dual disadvantage here – lack of skills and poor working conditions.
- Low wages and denial of statutory benefits like social security are also major issues. She will also have to cope with higher risks of discrimination as compared to her male colleagues.
- Her wages will not only be below the statutory minimum wage but will be much less than her male counterparts’ and benefits like maternity leave or related facilities, which are meant to keep women in the workforce, will not be accessible to her in the informal sector.
Need for formalising employment for Women Empowerment –
- To take their rightful place within Indian workforce and society at large, our women need lot more formal sector employment opportunities with better wages. And this cannot happen till formal sector employment grows in its own right.
- The existing complex and conflicting regulatory cholesterol and inconsistent legislation are currently impeding formal job creation. Raising the labour force participation in formal sector requires a total revamp of the regulatory ecosystem. Large-scale job creation in the formal sector will need sustained reforms in labour laws and skilling ecosystems.
- Huge investments will be needed in upskilling and educating women and the girl child, financial inclusion of women, encouraging women entrepreneurs, strengthening legal provisions for safety and security of women.
Increased availability of stable-wage jobs for women is critical to preventing their socio-economic exploitation, improving their quality of life, enhancing a woman’s control over household decision-making and enabling her to lead a life of dignity.
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