NEW DELHI: Alternative work arrangements in the gig economy have the potential to absorb more women and increase their participation in the workforce with some amount of reskilling, according to a latest study.
Gig economy is a labour market characterised by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs.
A study on "The Impact of COVID 19 and Industry 4.0 on Future of Work for Women, An Insight from Formal Sector in India" underscores that alternative work arrangements in the gig economy have the potential to absorb more women and increase their participation in the workforce.
"A boost in use of digital technology and increased acceptance of virtual working for sales and distribution jobs, could open opportunities for women to enter fields where interactions are managed through apps and phone calls," the study states.
"The study indeed gives a hope for a better future with more employment opportunities for women. However, concerted efforts are needed to understand how new technologies are impacting specific industries and to address challenges facing women in entering or remaining in the workplace," stated Nadia Rasheed, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in India, at the formal launch event of the study.
The survey also reflects that some key sectors that are likely to see an increase in women's employment are health and pharmaceuticals (by 59 per cent), electrical and electronics (by 44 per cent) and fast-moving consumer goods (perishable goods) industry (by 41 per cent).
At the same time, women's employment in the finance and accounting divisions may moderately change due to the adoption of new technology.
Around 73 per cent of the respondent firms agree that reskilling, specifically in the formal sector -- is likely to play a crucial part in shaping the work of tomorrow.
About 83 per cent of those who agreed to the skilling proposition also indicate that reskilling will be crucial to absorb more women in the world of work in India, the study states.
To safeguard the interest of both employers and employees, some labour laws and regulations are required in the changing world of work, it states.
Also, documenting best practices across globe on how different industries are using new technologies and at the same time creating job opportunities for women would help create supportive policies.
The survey findings state that work from home (WFH) or remote working will be the 'new normal' with advanced technologies such as digital information, artificial intelligence, robotisation and machine learning.
The study associates low level of technological skills with increasing levels of adverse impact, with the caveat that the time or pace of old jobs to be fully replaced by automation is uncertain, which may create unemployment for some time in India.
Interestingly, the study also revealed that in high-skill and low-skill jobs, the impact of technology is gender neutral.
It is the medium-skill jobs that have gender differentials because they require a blend of cognitive work and manual routine work, and gender can play a role here.
In high-skill jobs, finding the right skill to do the job is the most important criteria, and the candidate whether it is a man or woman hardly matters, it states.
In low-skill jobs in India, there is wage parity, and thus employers may have equal ratio of employees which reflect no gender bias, the study states.