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Employability of Women in India |

Employability of Women in India

Context:

∙ Recently, the Supreme Court of India said that termination of a woman’s employment due to marriage is gender discrimination, and unconstitutional.

Status of Working Women in India:

∙ As per the Union Budget 2022, the overall workforce participation rate in India is 20.3%, of which 18.2% is in Urban India.

∙ Women’s employability stands at 51.44% for 2022, compared to 41.25% in 2021. 

∙ Periodic Labour Force Survey Report 2022-23: It shows that the Female Labour Force Participation Rate in the country has improved significantly by 4.2% points to 37.0% in 2023, as per the ‘usual status’ concept of measuring labour force participation.

∙ The presence of girls/women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) is 43%, which is one of highest in the world.

∙ India is presently one of the only 15 countries in the world with a woman Head of State. 

∙ National Family Health Survey 5 (NFHS 5): It says 88.7% women participate in major household decisions today as against 84% five years ago.

∙ Public Sphere: In the 2019 Lok Sabha election for the first time in the country since independence, 81 women were elected as Members of Lok Sabha.

∙ There are over 1.45 million or 46% women elected representatives in Panchayati Raj Institutions (against mandatory representation of 33%).

Challenges faced by the working women:

∙ Work-Life Balance: Indian working women often struggle to balance their professional responsibilities with their roles at home.

∙ Workplace Complications: Women face complications in the workplace, including discrimination, bias, and sometimes even harassment.

∙ Gender Bias: There is a prevalent assumption that women are only suitable for specific tasks, leading to discrimination among those who work with them.

∙ Pay Disparity: Despite laws declaring equality in remuneration, it is not always followed.

∙ The ingrained belief that women are incapable of doing difficult work and are less effective than men impacts the payment of differential salaries and compensation for the same job.

∙ Security Issues: Safety and security are major concerns for working women, especially those who work at night or in remote locations.

Initiatives to tackle the issue:

∙ Flexible Working Hours: Organisations are increasingly offering flexible working hours to accommodate the needs of their female employees.

∙ Equal Women Representation: There is a growing emphasis on ensuring equal representation of women in planning and decision-making roles within organisations.

∙ Gender Equality Initiatives: Organisations are driving transformative change for gender equality, which includes initiatives like leadership development programs, increased female recruitments, and transparent communication.

∙ Support Services: Support services such as counselling sessions are being provided to help women cope with workplace challenges.

∙ Safety and Security Measures: Organisations are implementing proper safety and security measures to ensure a safe working environment for women.

∙ Effective Child Care Policies: Organisations are introducing effective child care policies to support working mothers.

∙ Appropriate Grievance Redressal Mechanisms: Appropriate grievance redressal mechanisms are being put in place at workplaces to address issues faced by women.

Constitutional Provisions related to Women:– Article 14: Equality before law for women.– Article 15 (1): The State not to discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.– Article 15 (3): The State to make any special provision in favour of women and children.– Article 16: Equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the State.– Article 39(a): The State to direct its policy towards securing for men and women equally the right to an adequate means of livelihood.– Article 39(d): Equal pay for equal work for both men and women.– Article 42: The State to make provision for securing just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.– Article 46: The State to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people and to protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.– Article 51(A) (e): To promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India and to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women.– Article 243 D(3), Article 243 D (4), Article 243 T (3), and Article 243 T (4) are related to reservation of seats for the women belonging to Scheduled Castes; and the Scheduled Tribes.

Related Supreme Court’s Observations:

∙ Marriage, Employment, and Gender Discrimination: The Supreme Court has stated that rules that edge out women from employment for getting married are ‘coarse’, unconstitutional.

∙ It observed that terminating employment because a woman has got married is a coarse case of gender discrimination and inequality.

∙ Acceptance of such patriarchal rule undermines human dignity, right to non-discrimination and fair treatment.

∙ Safe Working Environment: The Supreme Court recognized that under Article 14 (2), 19 (1) (g), and 21 of the Constitution, the fundamental rights also include the right to a safe working environment.

∙ Sexual Harassment: The Apex court commissioned the Vishaka Guidelines (1997) that defined sexual harassment and put the onus on the employers to provide a safe working environment for women.

Statutory and Legal Provisions

∙ The Prohibition of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013: It provides a definition of sexual harassment and mandates employers to develop a complaint mechanism.

∙ It also outlines procedural requirements for employers, including the establishment of an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), conducting orientation and awareness programs, and displaying details of the penal consequences of indulging in acts of sexual harassment.

∙ The Maternity Benefit Act, 1961: It regulates the employment of women in certain establishments for a certain period before and after childbirth and provides for maternity and other benefits.

∙ The Factories Act, 1948: It mandates that any factory employing 30 or more women workers must provide creche facilities for the use of children under the age of 6 years.

∙ It also stipulates that women cannot be made to lift more than the prescribed weight and cannot be made to clean or oil any moving machine.

∙ The Equal Remuneration Act, 1976: It provides for the payment of equal remuneration to men and women workers for the same work or work of a similar nature.

∙ Minimum Wages Act, 1948: It sets the minimum wages that must be paid to skilled and unskilled labourers.

Way Forward: What more to be done?

∙ Work from Home: A survey conducted by UNICEF’s public-private youth platform YuWaah and U-Report revealed that 55% of women prefer to work from home so they can manage household chores.

∙ It suggests that flexible work arrangements could be beneficial.

∙ Access to Information and Opportunities: The same survey found that 52% of respondents believe that access to information and opportunities or support from families are key factors that influence young women’s decision to develop job-ready skills and join the workforce.

∙ Family Influence: The survey also found that 56% of respondents believed that parents/family or partners are important actors in choosing aspirations and career options.

∙ Education and Unemployment: A study by the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Lucknow, found a rise in the unemployment rate with education levels.

∙ It suggests that more job opportunities need to be created for educated women.∙ Labour-Intensive Manufacturing Sector: The researchers suggested that a conscious effort to identify and promote the labour-intensive manufacturing sector will help in accomplishing inclusive growth.

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