[Answered]According to the recent World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2020, the participation of women in the labour force is among the lowest in the world. What are various reasons for this? Suggest some measures to reduce gender gap in India.

Demand of the question

Introduction. Contextual introduction.

Body. Reasons for low labour force participation of women in India. Measures to reduce gender gap in India.

Conclusion. Way forward.

 The female labor force participation rate (FLFPR) in India has been one of the lowest among the emerging economies and has been falling over time. India has slipped to the 112th spot from its 108th position in 2018 in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2020. According to the report, the participation of women in the labour force is among the lowest in the world, and the female estimated income is only 1/5th of the male income. Gender equality in every field is a prerequisite for any country to progress which therefore warrants a closer look at the labor force participation in India.

Reasons for low labour force participation of women in India:

  1. Lack of opportunities: In recent times, rural distress has affected women the most, as income-generating opportunities have disappeared. Mechanisation of farm and non-farm activities has reduced opportunities for work. Further, the non-availability of white collar jobs, disproportionate long hours and lesser job security narrow downs the job opportunities for educated women in India.
  2. Women education: Work participation drops sharply for women with primary and secondary education and rises only with college-level education. Data from the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) show that there is a subsequent decline in employment with the rise in education levels.
  3. Unpaid work: The time spent on unpaid work, especially on unpaid care and domestic chores has hindered women’s participation in the labour force. A recent study has found that the time spent on unpaid economic activities performed at the household and community levels by women is one of the important determinants of the FLFPR.
  4. Gender bias: Constraints in form of casteist and patriarchal notions of purity where women are prohibited from certain jobs, especially in the food processing, sericulture, and garment industries has added to the low participation.
  5. Changing family nature: With a reduction in family sizes and distress migration of rural males, the burden of unpaid work on women has been increasing disproportionately. The burden of domestic work and unpaid care inhibits women’s ability to acquire skills for better jobs, leading to a vicious cycle of women being kept out of the labor force.
  6. Other factors: Like lack of sanitation, sexual harassment at workplace, unsafe travelling, poor childcare facilities and care homes for the elderly etc. has prevented women from working in the industries.
  7. Feminisation of the workforce: It is seen that at many places pink colour jobs are reserved exclusively for women e.g. hospitality sector etc. Also the courses are marked as male and female friendly e.g. mechanical engineering and other industrial courses are deemed not favourable for female jobs. This has led to less women participation.

Measures to reduce gender gap in India: Low women participation in labour force is one of the indicators of gender gaps and biases that exist in society. Below are some measures to reduce gender gap:

  1. Education: Women literacy gap must be reduced by ensuring the safety of the women in the schools and through better infrastructure. It is important especially to reduce patriarchal mindset of the society.
  2. Financial awareness: Increasing women’s economic independence through improving financial literacy, access to financial services and assisting women to develop their employment prospects is important.
  3. Rights awareness: It is important to work on vulnerable populations to enable the realisation of basic human rights. It is important, especially in rural areas where women undergo atrocities which perpetuate and continue as a vicious cycle.
  4. Skill development: Skill development through skill education for low-income women is needed. It would enable them to manage their lives better. Initiatives such as Skill India, Make in India are important steps.
  5. Community participation: It is important to make society and community realise about women’s rights and their well-being.
  6. Policy formulation: The meaningful involvement of women and men affected by gender-based violence in the design and delivery of services and advocacy and policy response through the provision of technical assistance should be encouraged. Gender budgeting should be encouraged.

Women continue to face many barriers to enter the labour market and to access decent work and disproportionately face a range of multiple challenges related to employment and balancing the competing burdens of work and family responsibilities. The goal is not merely to increase female labour force participation, but to reduce overall mindset and gender gap.

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