If the ‘Global Employment Trends 2013’ report is anything to go by, the number of Indian women at work is on the decline.
The study, carried out by the International Labour Organisation says, “A major reason for the slow growth in employment in countries like India is the fall in female labour force participation. In India, the participation rate for women fell from 37.3 per cent in 2004-05 to 29 per cent in 2009-10.”
Another report hints at the role of caste and gender in determining women’s participation in labour. In her paper, Neetha N Pillai, professor at the Centre for Women’s Development Studies in New Delhi says, “What is disturbing is the widening gender gap in participation in employment across all categories. A comparison of the differences across two time periods shows that the highest declines have been for STs and SCs, followed by Muslims. Thus, though the gender gap between participation rates has increased across all categories, the widening gap for lower social categories raises serious concerns.”
The paper goes on to mention that women from upper caste categories are able to face challenges at work better than lower caste women. “How much of this decline is due to the ‘Sankritisation process’, the tendency to restrict women’s participation in outside employment following the upper caste norm is an issue which needs further analysis,” it adds.
However, Supriya Roy Chowdhury, professor at the Institute for Social and Economic Change, Bangalore, has a different take. “One cannot say that this is reflective of a trend. In a recent study on NCR Delhi and Bangalore, it was found that number of women in service sector with regular salaries has increased.”
She noted that participation of women in urban areas in salaried jobs in beauty parlours, hospitality sector, petrol bunks, etc, has also increased.
“Upper class women may choose not to work due to childbearing and family duties. Even professionally qualified women in areas like information technology are opting to work from home or starting their own small businesses. However, all these are isolated studies and nothing in the nature of a detailed study on working women in India has been done yet,” she adds.