The motherhood penalty employers must eliminate

Synopsis: Government intervention is needed to bring women equal to men.


Women in India often faced a lot of discrimination owing to the patriarchy. It does not only impact her social life but takes a toll on her professional one also.

What is the status of women in India?

The gender gap in India has widened by 62.5%. Low gender parity can be seen in different spheres like political, economic etc.

The difference is also visible in the pay rate in spite of the same jobs with equivalent qualifications. There is a gap of 34% in gender pay.

India, as of 2020 has the lowest female labour force participation rate among South Asian nations with many of them neither working nor looking for jobs.

India has also slipped 28 places in Global Gender Gap, 2021 since 2020, and is currently ranked at 140/156 nations.

The recent pandemic has further worsened the gender divide among women, especially mothers. The mothers are facing more discrimination than non-mothers. The main reason behind that is to do the household chores, elderly and child care especially with the closing of the school.

According to National Sample Survey Organisation, it was found that women spent nearly 4.5 hours on child care and other responsibilities, while men only 0.88 hrs.

What is the motherhood penalty?

It is the situation where working mothers faced discrimination compared to other employees. It is because of the misconception that they are less professional and incompetent. Also, they faced discrimination on various grounds like less pay rate, rare promotions, less hiring etc.

For this notion to be removed, there is a need to reorient workplace norms to make them more gender-equal.

What does the government do?

The government made the amendment to Maternity Benefit Act in 2017. It increased the maternity paid leave from 12 to 26 weeks. In spite of the good efforts, this amendment further strengthens the notion that caregiving is the primary onus of women. So, it raises the risk of women being subjected to the motherhood penalty. Still, there is no similar law for paternity benefits.

What should India do?

India should adopt the policies of other International governments:

Iceland’s policy: Iceland makes the mandatory provisions for firms with more than 25 employees to prove every three years that they provide equal pay. Firms get certified according to that. If not certified, they have to pay the daily fine.

Ireland: It asks companies with more than 250 employees to publish data on disparities between average and median hourly wages and bonuses for both genders.

Source: This post is based on the article “The motherhood penalty employers must eliminate” published in LiveMint on 7th October 2021.

Print Friendly and PDF