Reset rural job policies, recognise women’s work
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on women’s work, but official statistics do not capture women in workforce adequately and accurately. A survey by the Azim Premji University, of 5,000 workers across 12 States — of whom 52% were women workers — found that women workers were worse off than men during the lockdown.
Among rural casual workers, for example, 71% of women lost their jobs after the lockdown; the figure was 59% for men. Data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) also suggest that job losses in April 2020, as compared to April 2019, were larger for rural women than men.
Patterns of women in workforce –
- Data suggests that rural women face a crisis of regular employment. In other words, when women are not reported as workers, it is because of the lack of employment opportunities rather than it being on account of any “withdrawal” from the labour force. This crisis of regular employment will have intensified during the pandemic and the lockdown.
- A second feature of rural women’s work is that women from all sections of the peasantry, with some regional exceptions, participate in paid work outside the home. Thus, we need to include women from almost all sections of rural households and not just women from rural labour or manual worker households.
- A third feature of our village-level findings is that younger and more educated women are often not seeking work because they aspire to skilled non-agricultural work, whereas older women are more willing to engage in manual labour.
- A fourth feature of rural India is that women’s wages are rarely equal to men’s wages, with a few exceptions. The gap between female and male wages is highest for non-agricultural tasks — the new and growing source of employment.
- Finally, an important feature of rural India pertains to the woman’s work day. Counting all forms of work — economic activity and care work or work in cooking, cleaning, child care, elderly care — a woman’s work day is exceedingly long and full of drudgery. In the FAS time-use survey, the total hours worked by women (in economic activity and care) ranged from 61 hours to 88 hours in the lean season, with a maximum of 91 hours (or 13 hours a day) in the peak season. No woman puts in less than a 60-hour work-week.
What needs to be done?
- As we emerge from the lockdown, it is very important to begin, first, by redrawing our picture of the rural labour market by including the contribution of women.
- While the immediate or short-run provision of employment of women can be through an imaginative expansion of the NREGS, a medium and longer term plan needs to generate women-specific employment in skilled occupations and in businesses and new enterprises.
- In the proposed expansion of health infrastructure in the country, women, who already play a significant role in health care at the grass-root level, must be recognised as workers and paid a fair wage.
- In the expansion of rural infrastructure announced by the Finance Minister, specific attention must be paid to safe and easy transport for women from their homes to workplaces.
We need immediate measures to reduce the drudgery of care work. To illustrate, healthy meals for schoolchildren as well as the elderly and the sick can reduce the tasks of home cooking. It is time for women in workforce to be seen as equal partners in the task of transforming the rural economy.
Source – The Hindu
QUESTION – There is a lack of special recognition of women workforce and its contribution to the Indian economy despite large disparities in the volume of contribution by women as against men. Discuss the structure and pattern of women workforce and suggest what needs to be done to effectively recognise their contribution and alleviate their sufferings.