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Why Unemployment Continues To Be Rampant Among Indian Women

Posted: January 20, 2021

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When Indian girls are the toppers in schools and colleges, why do Indian women still form a minority at the workplace?

In recent years, there is an upsurge in the enrolment of girls in higher education in all major disciplines across the country. Though it appears to be an encouraging scenario, their presence in salaried employment has not gone up accordingly.  In contrast, the number of working women is declining.

This trend is alarming, especially in the present times of increasing awareness of women empowerment, liberalisation, free economy and social mobility. If girls can pursue higher education comfortably, what are the barriers for their career aspirations?

According to a recent study of International Labour Organization, globally 75% of men are employed, while only 49% of women are salaried. Moreover, the figure is much lower in India, with only 27% of women being employed. And that too, most women in India work in unorganised sectors for lower salaries.

Quite fascinatingly, another global survey by the International Labour Organization explores, what does woman really aspire to do- household management or salaried employment?  The findings reveal that 70% women prefer to do any kind of work rather than home management. Still, they are not visible in the job market in proportion to their education.

So many questions before a woman can work…

The obvious reasons could be, the patriarchal social and cultural constraints as well as traditionally recognised family responsibilities. So, we as a society look at a man getting into a job without further enquiries. However, a woman has to answer the following possible queries satisfactorily; How far is the office from home?  What about the working hours? Is it possible to balance the household responsibilities first and then the job? Is there a safe transport facility?

Here, we also find a common link between the financial status of a family and the need for a woman to work outside. If the husband has a good job and takes complete financial responsibilities, then the wife will not seek employment mostly. Similarly, if there is financial hardship, the wife will inevitably look for a job. Thus, the financial status of the family is the deciding factor, whether a woman should be employed, not her educational qualifications or personal aspirations.

As a result, we often see more of poor or less educated women working outside at lower levels and sometimes in vulnerable conditions too, not the rich or highly educated women.

Surprisingly, even in this age of woman empowerment, globally 20% of men and 14% of women still feel that women should not work outside. According to World Bank Report of 2018, the number of working women in rural India has declined by 11.5% and in urban India by 5% respectively. Likewise, among graduate girls 67% in rural India and 68.3% in urban areas are still unemployed. However, the number of women getting higher education is increasing.

As a matter of fact, we do find women in large numbers at entry level jobs. But they quit at the middle level due to family obligations.  This problem can be partially resolved, if the institutions provide supportive facilities for child care for young mothers.

It is generally observed fact that women take less leave from office, perform better and comparatively take less tea breaks in office hours. Yet, institutions hesitate to provide jobs for them. For instance, instead of providing child care facilities for a mother, they hesitate to hire such women. As a result, women brush their educational background aside and work in traditional feminine jobs like beauty and health care or any other part-time jobs. Interestingly, in teaching profession too, we find a large number of men in higher education sector and women at school levels. Here, we should compare the immense difference in drawn salary at two levels.

The basic question here, why should India push for employment of women? According to a study (PDF) by McKinsey Global Institute in 2015, India’s GDP will see 60% increase by 2025, if women are employed equally. Currently, women contribute only 17% to the country’s GDP.

Thus, for their own self-reliance and also for the country’s growth, Indian women have to walk for long miles to get on the path to true equality. As Gandhi said, the change we want to see in the world must begin with ourselves. For this, we need to broaden the spectrums of our social and traditional values.

First published here.

Image credits: Shylendra Hoode/Getty Images Signature, via Canva Pro

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Dr. Jyothi, Assistant Professor, Department of English, University College of Science, Tumkur University. Has been

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