While the ravaging pandemic has hit an already underperforming economy, the crisis of unemployment and lack of substantial job opportunities has inundated our country's workforce. The unseen truth in the turmoil of joblessness created by the pandemic is the mere fact that, while the pandemic has affected all of us, and women especially have been the worst-hit. According to a report published by UN Women in September 2020, approximately 740 million women work in the informal economy and their income fell by 60 per cent globally in the initial months of the COVID.
During the first three phases of unlocking (May 2020 to August 2020) initiated by the government, India's capital Delhi reported the lowest Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) at 33 per cent. It also went on to identify itself with the fourth lowest unemployment rate at 23.3 per cent, according to the Centre of Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE). LFPR represents the fraction of the working-age population that is either working or actively looking for a job. At the same time, the unemployment rate is the proportion of people who lack employment and a source of income. According to the Labour Force Survey, in the Year 2018-19, India's LFPR remained at 50.2 per cent. The pandemic has indefinitely pushed thousands of Indians to the verge of unemployment.
Labour Participation Rate For Women Was 9.3%
According to CMIE, the labour participation rate for women was 9.3 per cent compared to 67.4 per cent for males. The insights further added that the urban female unemployment rate remains at 21.9 per cent compared to 11.7 per cent for urban males. These numbers only open our eyes to how the vast gender divide between males and females has been steadily growing from the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic. Apart from the crisis of unemployment, political leadership gaps, educational gaps, the constant erosion of rights are all just some of the issues that women continued to face even long before the pandemic happened.
Women remain noticeably more vulnerable to job insecurities than men, as cited by the Institute for Women's Policy Research. The concern over occupational segregation continues to remain grave and deep-rooted. Division of jobs based on gender and on the assumption that women would not be capable of providing the same quality of work as men in certain occupations perpetually drive the crisis of unemployment even today. According to NSSO data, the fraction of rural men employed in the agricultural sector fell from 80.6 per cent to 53.2 per cent. Whereas rural women only fell from 88.1 per cent to 71.7 per cent.
12 Million Women Could Lose Employment by 2030
One of the other unseen reasons behind the downfall of women's labour force participation rate is that of increased mechanisation and technological advances in today's era. Men phased out of agricultural jobs as and when the use of seed drillers, harvesters, husking equipment increased. Similarly, women collectively decreased their participation in textile mills as, and when power looms, button stitching machines and other textile machinery replaced human labour. Many international reports like the McKinsey Global Institute report states that nearly 12 million women could lose their employment by 2030 because of self-operating robotic replacements.
Pandemics are in no sense gender-neutral; they magnify all existing inequalities and gender roles. According to the report by UN Women, 41 per cent of women are employed in sectors at high risk of job losses amid the pandemic. Another factor that adds to the woes is that of unsafe work environments for women mainly. In addition, the pandemic has proved to us that violence and harassment is a reality not only in the world of work but also in one's household. More and more women withdrew from their work due to having faced harassment issues from other male members and personnel working at a higher position than theirs.
There is also a subsequent gap in higher education and skill training offered to women than men. While women continue to ponder over other aspects of unemployment during the ongoing pandemic, unpaid care work hinders their job prospects. According to the NSSO report of 2019, women spend an average of five hours per day on domestic chores compared to thirty minutes for men. The idea that household work is only the woman's responsibility is nothing but an unfair system of uneven division of labour.
It is widespread for a woman to sacrifice her mobility, educational opportunities, employment circumstances, adequate wages in the name of family responsibility and societal norms. Women need to be educated more on gender sensitivity and equality concerning being financially independent of fostering themselves better. As we dive deeper into the government's response to the ongoing pandemic, the need of the hour is to ensure gender-equal reciprocation and sensitisation. The current digital gender divide is a matter of grave distress among various marginalised female communities. The government and different NGOs must make a collective effort to bridge the divide by educating and making them more technologically savvy.
Our immediate fight against the ongoing crisis of unemployment amidst the pandemic must develop more robust domestic violence policies and ensure public health messages are appropriately targeted to all women. We need to boost women's economic resilience while protecting essential health services. The UN's bracingly clear policy guide clarifies the stakes and what governments and their people must do now to ensure their response to the COVID-19 crisis does not intensify the problem of gender inequality. Efficient policy-making and adequate collection of data about women's employment must be collected regularly from different state governments.
We need to change the outlook and perspective of society by bettering working conditions, increasing employment chances for women across different sectors, reducing wage gaps to avoid exploitation of labour, and most importantly, educating and empowering the women of our country. The central government can take up various measures to boost women's employment, such as incentivising the appointment of women in micro, small, and medium-sized businesses. The institution can further develop policies and schemes that offer job security and other benefits for underprivileged women employed in various sectors. According to a report by WHO, 70 per cent of health and social care workers are women. To celebrate that, China put up posters honouring women on the frontline. Why not take up the same opportunity and make their role much more visible?