May 30, 2024
Syllabus- General Studies Paper 2

The COVID-19 pandemic has destroyed millions of livelihoods and led to a sudden and large increase in poverty and a massive disruption of the labour market in India. Women workers, in particular, have borne a disproportionate burden.

According to recently released State of Working India 2021: One Year of Covid-19 Report shows that the pandemic has worsened the situation.

Highlights of the report
  • 61% of male workers were unaffected during the lockdown while only 19% of women experienced this kind of security.
  • Even by the end of the year, 47% of employed women who had lost jobs during the lockdown, had not returned to work whereas for men this number was only 7%.
  • Nearly half of the women workers, irrespective of whether they were salaried, casual, or self-employed, withdrew from the workforce, as compared to only 11% of men.
  • Inferior options– Even as new entrants, women were more likely to enter as daily wage workers while men found avenues for self-employment.
  • Job loss– Women tended to lose work disproportionately irrespective of the industry in which they were employed. For instance, the share of women in job losses in education was three times their share in that industry.
  • With schools closed and almost everyone limited to the confines of their homes, household responsibilities increased for women. Married women and women from larger households were less likely to return to work, suggesting that the burden of care may be a reason for poor employment recovery.
Way Forward
  • Expansion of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA)
  • Introduction of an urban employment guarantee targeted to women.
  • co-ordinated efforts by States to facilitate employment of women while also addressing immediate needs through the setting up of community kitchens, prioritizing the opening of schools and anganwadi centres, and
  • Engagement with self-help groups for the production of essential supplies like personal protective equipment kits etc.
  • A COVID-19 hardship allowance of at least ₹5,000 per month for six months should be announced for 2.5 million accredited social health activists and Anganwadi workers, most of whom are women.

The time is right to imagine a bold universal basic services programme that not only fills existing vacancies in the social sector but also expands public investments in health, education, child and elderly care, and so on, to be prepared for future shocks.

This can help bring women into the workforce not only by directly creating employment for them but also by alleviating some of their domestic work burdens, while also overcoming nutritional and educational deficits that we are likely to be confronted with as we emerge from this crisis.

  • McKinsey Global Institute Report suggests that if women participation rate in the indian economy attains equal level to that of men, annual Indian GDP could increase by 60% above its projected GDP by 2025.
  • Thus the government at all levels, along with the help of NGOs and civil society organisations and common citizens should strive towards achieving gender equality in labour force participation. It is not just morally correct but also makes a logical economic sense.

Dialing Mains:

Question– Women workforce in India has been disproportionately hit by both Covid and resulting job losses due to lockdowns. Analyse.

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