Urban Women Witnessed Most Disproportionate Impact Of Job Losses Due To COVID, Says Report

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Urban Women Witnessed Most Disproportionate Impact Of Job Losses Due To COVID, Says Report

Two in every five women have been affected by the unnatural development of dual workload of domestic care work and paid work as a result of pandemic-induced lockdowns.

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A woman's ability to work is often impacted by factors other than her capabilities and willpower to work. The data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) showed that as of March 2021, women accounted for only 41.8 million of the 399.7 million jobs in India. Two in every five women have been affected by the unnatural development of dual workload of domestic care work and paid work due to pandemic-induced lockdowns. Around 45 per cent of women indicated that managing family and household commitments hindered their career development, an issue most predominantly witnessed in India.

Statistics Of Job Losses During The Pandemic

According to Dalberg study, during and after the first lockdown, 61 per cent of working men remained employed, and 7 per cent lost employment and did not return to work. Comparatively, for women, only 19 per cent remained engaged, and 47 per cent suffered a permanent job loss during the lockdown, not returning to work even by the end of 2020. Industries that heavily employed women workers, including hospitality, construction, tourism, street vendors, domestic helpers, waste picking, and factory labour, were most affected during the second wave of the pandemic, causing a disproportionate impact on women's work.

A study conducted by the Self-Employed Women's Association (SEWA) found that three out of five women in the informal sector suffered from job loss and nearly 65 per cent reduction during the pandemic following the second wave. On the other hand, the role of women in Corporate Leadership is better with an average of 39 per cent compared to the global average of 31 per cent. However, glass ceilings and the burden of unpaid work affect the women who reach those levels. Moreover, the report also commented on the condition of women workers, highlighting increased work hours and reduced remuneration.

Commenting on this, Sona Mitra, Principal Economist, Initiative for What Works to Advance Women and Girls in the Economy (IWWAGE), says, "Women have faced a significant brunt of the pandemic – economically and socially. A gender-responsive and equitable recovery is the need of the hour. We need strong policy levers and an enabling environment supported by various stakeholders to ensure that women actively participate in the labour force and remain in the labour market. This report launched today provides a snapshot of the wide-ranging impacts that the pandemic has had on women and reaffirms our belief that despite the hurdles, more women and girls in India are seeking out financial and social independence by being a part of the labour force."

A study by IWWAGE titled 'Women and Work: How India Fared in 2021' highlighted that during the first wave, Urban women, who make up 3 per cent of total employment, witnessed the most disproportionate impact, with 39 per cent of total job losses. Similarly, in the second wave, urban men, who make up for 28 per cent of total employment, suffered the highest share of job losses at 30 per cent by the end of June 2021.

According to World Bank data for 2020, India's female labour participation rate stood at 26.2 per cent compared to the OECD average of 51.1 per cent. The World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2021 ranks it as the sixth-worst performing country on the 'Economic Participation and Opportunity' metric; better only than Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan compared to 2020 when India was ranked fifth.

Key Findings Of IWWAGE Report

The key findings of the IWWAGE report mentioned that a woman with a graduate and higher degree has more than a 12 per cent chance of being in the labour force in urban areas. Similarly, vocational training seems to be essential in determining women's paid work participation. Women in households with young children aged less than five years of age are less likely to participate in the labour force across rural and urban areas. However, there is no evidence to show the same for women with older children. Social groups and religion also play the dominant role in determining women's paid work participation in India, with SC/ST women and Hindu women being more active in the labour market than Muslim and upper-caste women.

In the post-lockdown economic recovery phase, over 40 per cent of the women have been affected by the unnatural development of dual workload of domestic care and paid work due to pandemic induced lockdowns. Moreover, around 45 per cent of women indicated that managing family and household commitments came in the way of their career, an issue predominantly seen in India. Gender-disaggregated data13 show that women's participation in the workforce has been more erratic and challenging, even during non-lockdown periods than men.

This report also highlighted that women are endeavouring to independently upskill themselves to enhance their employability in a rapidly changing job market and to mitigate the resulting uncertainty. As of January 2021, of the 99.31 lakh candidates who had been trained or oriented under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) scheme, 41 per cent were women. Moreover, of the total candidates who reported being placed, 52 per cent were women. The report also explored the efforts to encourage women to adopt non-traditional livelihoods (NTLs) by investing in enablers and reducing the barriers, including gender norms, that women face when looking for jobs in these sectors.

Solving The Problem Of Female Labour Force Participation

Apart from taking stock of the current situation in terms of female labour force participation, IWWAGE also brought to the forefront a few recommendations, such as investing in the care economy by expanding the frontline health workforce to create 3 million jobs, expanding the sectors and increasing the stipends offered to female apprentices under the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS). Moreover, expanding in private sector procurement by incentivizing. Expand private-sector procurement by incentivizing them through tax breaks and subsidies to procure from women's enterprises directly. Increasing the mandate for public procurement from women-owned MSMEs in Public Procurement Policy (2018) from the current 3 per cent, extending the cash transfer scheme to supplement household income, where women have lost their jobs and creating gender-equitable workplaces, such as the creation of creches and flexible work policies, in the private sector by incentivizing them through tax holidays would help to augment women participation.

IWWAGE aims to build on existing research and generate new evidence to inform and facilitate the agenda of women's economic empowerment. IWWAGE is an initiative of LEAD, an action-oriented research centre of IFMR Society (a not-for-profit society registered under the Societies Act). LEAD has strategic oversight and brand support from Krea University (sponsored by IFMR Society) to synergize academia and the research centre. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation also supports IWWAGE.


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