In order to understand changing female labor force participation, it is important to first conceptualize the overarching context within which various factors operate.
Indian Society, which is largely male dominated, for the position of women in society. Not only men, even most women internalize their position in society as a fair description of their status through the ages. These generalizations apply to some degree to practically every known society in the world.
- Women's lack of access to higher education had effectively excluded them from the practice of well-paid and high status occupations.
- Women play various roles in their lifetime ranging from a mother to that of a breadwinner but are almost always subordinated to male authority; largely excluded from high status occupation and decision making both at work and at home.
- Paradoxically, even in our Indian society where women goddesses are worshipped, women are denied an independent identity and status.
- Occupational inequality is the unequal treatment of people based on gender, sexuality, height, weight, accent, or race in the workplace. When researchers study trends in occupational inequality they usually focus on distribution or allocation pattern of groups across occupations, for example, the distribution of men compared to women in a certain occupation
Indicators of Women’s Status in India
There are different forms of violence on women, which act as threats to women’s independent identity and dignity. Forms of violence are:
- Female foeticide & infanticide - According to a survey by British medical journal, Lancet, nearly 10 million female abortions have taken place in India in the last 20 years, which is rampant amongst the educated Indian middle class as well. There are organizations like Swanchetan, which are working towards educating & bringing awareness in people against the ghastly act.
- Rape, sexual harbassment & abuse - It acts as a deterrent to women’s freedom & perpetuates the notion that women are the weaker sex. Every 2 hours, a rape occurs somewhere in India! The recent Dec. 16 Delhi Gang rape case shook the entire country and led to protests all across the country, setting up of Justice Verma panel & helped in the fast track judgment of the case. However rampant cases of rape of Dalit women, acid attacks, eve teasing go unnoticed.
- Domestic violence and dowry deaths - Violence on women in the family were considered family problems and were never acknowledged as “crimes against women” until recently. It is prevalent in all classes of society.
- Prostitution - A large number of women destitute or victims of rape who are disowned by family fall prey to prostitution forcibly. There are no governmental programs to alleviate the problem of prostitution.
- Objectification of women - Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 prohibits indecent representation of women through advertisements or in publications, writings, paintings etc. However a whole lot of indecent representation of women is done through literature, media, paintings etc upholding the “right to freedom of expression”.
Demographic Profile of Women in India
- Literacy -The female literacy levels according to the Literacy Rate 2011 census are 65.46% where the male literacy rate is over 80%. While Kerala has the highest female literacy rate of 100% , Bihar is at the lowest with only 46.40%
- Employment - Of the total female population 21.9% are a part of Indian workforce. Majority of women are employed in the rural areas and in agriculture. Amongst rural women workers 87% are employed in agriculture as laborers, cultivators, self employed like hawkers etc i.e. in the unorganized sector which almost always remains invisible. Despite the equal remuneration Act 1976, women are paid lower wages, occupy lower skilled jobs, have less access to skill training and promotion.
- Political status - Though India had a women Prime Minister Late Ms Indira Gandhi, women are not fairly represented in the Parliament & other State & Local bodies. With only around 9 per cent women in upper house and around 11 per cent in the lower house of parliament, India ranks 99th in the world in terms of female representation among MPs.
However 73rd & 74th amendments to the constitution have ensured the participation of women in PRIs with a reservation of 1/3rd for women. Today more than 30 million women are actively participating in the political decision making process at the grass root.
Women’s work participation factors in India
Women’s work participation rate in general has been declining over the decades. The decline has occurred due to several factors:
- Absence of comprehensive and rational policy for women’s emancipation through education, training and access to resources such as land, credit and technology etc.
- The perception of male as the breadwinner of the family despite the fact that in low income households women’s income is crucial for sustenance. This perception adversely affects women’s education & training. Employers also visualize women workers as supplementary workers & also cash in on this perception to achieve their capitalistic motives by keeping the wage low for women.
- Structural changes in the economy e.g decline in traditional rural industries or industrialization.
- Lack of assets (land, house) in their own name in order to have access to credit and self employment opportunities
- Huge demand of time and energy of women for various tasks at home like child bearing and rearing etc in addition to participation in labour force leave them with little time for education, training and self development
- Division of labour based on the gender between men and women & technological advancements work against women. They are the last to be hired and first to be sacked.
- Govt. programs to increase employment and productivity are focused more on men & women are seen as beneficiaries rather than active participants
Education & Economic independence of women & awareness amongst the masses are the most important weapons to eradicate this inhumane behavior of the society towards the female sex. We are slowly but steadily heading towards an era of change & hope to see the light of change, shine on the weaker sex, as it is called one day.
- Women in India
- Women in Work force
- Role of Women and Women’s Organizations in India
Content contributor : Ms Shikher Goyal