Date: 28-04-2021 | Time: 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM (IST)

Platform: Zoom

Prepared by: Adyasha Mohanty, Intern, CPPR, Anu Maria Francis, Associate – Research, CPPR

Speakers :

  • Vishishta Sam, National Project Coordinator, Care Economy at International Labour Organisation, Delhi
  • Sheela Kochouseph, Managing Director, V-Star Creations Pvt. Ltd, Kerala

Moderator:  Anu Maria Francis, Associate – Research, CPPR

About the Event

The ‘Gender Gap in Employment: What is holding women back?’ webinar was organised by Centre For Public Policy Research (CPPR)  jointly with the Kerala Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI).  This webinar was an extension of the ongoing project being undertaken by CPPR on “Easing Barriers for Employment of Women in Factories”. The webinar hosted distinguished speakers to deliberate on bringing about gender-just employment opportunities and building an enabling environment for women in the workspace.

Highlights of the Event

This dialogue was focused on the declining female labour force participation rate and the reasons behind the big gender gap. The moderator welcomed the panel, giving a brief on the organisation, and the project, and started the webinar by introducing the speakers.

Speaker: Vishishta Sam

The main points of discussion with Ms. Vishishta Sam revolved around national and international policies for employment of women, the current state of affairs, and the possible ways forward to increase women employment by tweaking policies, setting up employment frameworks to include care work by women, etc. The following are the points mentioned by Ms. Sam during the discussion.

  • The state of the gender gap in India can be understood from the latest Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy Pvt. Ltd (CMIE) report which points out that between 2017 and 2022, 21 million persons permanently left the workforce. According to the World Bank, the female labour force participation in the country was 18.63% which is assessed to be considerably lower than our counterpart in the South-Asian region, where it is 23.6%, while men’s participation in the labour force is 80%.
  • The contribution of women to the economic growth of the country is just 18%. Despite the increase in education among women, the labour force rates have still not increased. Whereas theories suggest that education and skills usually translate into greater participation which is not evident today.
  • The point on care work hours in the household was the main reason highlighted by the speaker for the decline in the labour force rate. The three reasons highlighted by her were: firstly, the long hours spent in household care work; secondly, the lack of decent quality work in the labour market and thirdly, the safety and security concerns of women in the workforce.
  • On women’s education and workforce participation, according to a UNICEF report poll  (2022), 38% of the respondents knew at least 1 female student who dropped out of school. Only 3% got vocational training, out of which only 39% took up real jobs. As per the UNESCO 2015 report, “India currently has more female science graduates than men”, which is higher than most industrialised nations. These statistics show a ‘U’- shaped correlation with respect to education and female labour participation.
  • The quality of work that is offered to women in India is not adequate. So women’s education has not successfully translated into greater workforce participation. India as a country has not achieved gender parity through education.
  • On social norms and attitudes, the choices for women are mostly determined by patriarchal attitudes of the society, many times the roles are predefined for women. The lack of recognition of unpaid care work is a serious impediment. This determines the gender relationships in a hierarchy within our household.
  • In the context of new labour codes 2020, Vishishta pointed out that the labour codes were flawed, as they exclude the majority of the women since 90% of them are working in the informal sector. This shows that most women don’t have access to these laws. The Occupational Safety and Health Code 2020 (OSH), for example, is applicable to establishments with 10 employees or more. This excludes women who are not part of the smaller establishments.
  • With regard to manufacturing units as well, the OSH Code has a drawback. Since it has not considered the aspect of law on harassment in smaller establishments that does not come under its purview, whereas the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act  is comparatively more dynamic.
  • On the policy aspect, Vishishta stated, “We need universal access to socio-economic service, especially around care works.”
  • The three key takeaways on how improving policies can help in increasing women’s participation were:
    • Firstly on maternity benefits. India has increased maternity leaves from 12 to 16 weeks but this doesn’t cover informal sector workers.
    • Secondly, the child care policy gap. For example, the maternity leave in India for parents is 5 to 6 months and formal education starts at 6 years of age.  In this 5-½ year age gap, women are expected to look after the child. This comes down on the women’s shoulders invariably.
    • And lastly, in the measurement of unpaid work on national accounts, unpaid labour is currently being categorised as ‘Own account service’. By adopting this, we would have data on unpaid house care, unpaid child care and other unattended work. This needs to be noticed by the government and policymakers.

Speaker: Sheela Kochouseph

The main points of discussion with Ms. Sheela Kochouseph was around women in the manufacturing sector specifically. Since Ms. Sheela has a vast experience in management and leadership roles, the discussion with her focused on getting more women in the leadership positions, and also the challenges she has faced for employing women in her factories. The following are the points mentioned by Ms. Kochouseph during the discussion.

  • Though the manufacturing sector was dominated by men earlier, times are changing now and women are taking the leap to balance work and life. Companies are showing interest in hiring more women because they seem to manage the work better.
  • In Kerala , women are more educated and are looking out for jobs, especially in the manufacturing sector. From her experience of hiring women who are majorly from marginalised backgrounds; employed women feel empowered in their societies once they have financial security.
  • She also highlighted, “A woman’s role is very important and she should be given respect, care and support while doing her duties at work as well. Family support plays a bigger role in empowering women.”

The panel agreed on the fact that emphasising the efficiency of women can empower them. Policy implementation is also a key issue.  Care responsibility should be recognised and shared by everyone in the household. Social norms become an impediment for women to get opportunities, which is an important thing to be addressed in order to close the gender gap in employment.

Concluding remarks

The session was concluded by highlighting the key points of discussion :

Along with education, the following factors should be addressed to address the disparity in Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR).

  1. Care work and responsibility should not fall on women’s shoulders alone.
  2. Improving the quality of work available for women and not just focusing on the employment aspect of jobs alone.
  3. Safety and security concerns of women in the workspace must be addressed.

Better incentives should be provided to entrepreneurs by the government to start and maintain businesses which in turn would create quality employment for all. Along with this, the efficiency of women at multitasking needs to be acknowledged and hired into managerial positions. Recognition of care work is a key to improve the status of women in the socio-cultural context of India.

To watch the webinar, click here

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