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Decline in participation of Indian women labour force: A cause for concern

Indian women

Dr. Shikha Jyoti Deka


T
he participation of the female labour force in India has fallen to 26 per cent in 2018 from 36.7 per cent in 2005 (Deloitte report). The sharp drop in the number of working women is a definite concern for anyone who cares about gender equality. Due to various reasons, a number of Indian women professionals cease to continue their career development at the early stage.

While men leave job for better career or work opportunities, women tend to leave work for personal reasons. There are a few barriers that prevent women employees to deliver their best potential, when they have equal emerging opportunity and desire to show their excellence in the field. The responsibility of a married female employee can be divided into two parts — household responsibilities and workplace accountability. Apart from that, many of them simultaneously have to perform childcare liabilities and are thus bound to face additional constraints, which is not the case with most of the married men.

Sometimes, they fail to work with the same passion or devotion in comparison to their male co-worker. There are numerous instances of women not being promoted despite successful performances because, “she had the flexile timing” (Murty et. al, 2012: 73) to balance work and family commitments. Often due to their personnel obligation, when there is work pressure or priority to meet deadlines, women are criticized by their fellow worker for being absent or inadequate contribution in the team/organisation work. Observations also suggested that a considerable proportion of women employees prefer to continue at the entry level. They are not enthusiastic and keen to progress to higher levels of pay, skill, responsibility or authority. This is mainly due to the need of balancing work-life and personnel bindings. Promotion with greater authority and duty, with less flexibility is not a preferable proposal for them. It often becomes a challenge to balance work, family, society and self and stand against professional plan and determination.

Child care is observed to be the biggest barrier in raising women participation at higher positions in the sector. The dominant role in childcare is admitted to be that of the mother and this responsibility affects the working life of women more than a men in a distinct way. Many female employees find returning to work difficult after having responsibility of raising a child. In well paid and demanding job profiles, it becomes a challenge for female employees to serve sufficient childcare and hence end up leaving employment.

In re-entering office after childbirth, women get trouble in getting promoted. On the subject of promotion to the higher level, employers always consider employee’s current performance and dedication towards work. A potential and efficient women employee after childbirth is bound to shift her commitment and preferences towards her child. Thus, the change of direction of loyalty and devotion acts as an obstruction in woman employee’s professional progress.

Another factor that affects women’s careers is the husband’s career (Murty et.al, 2012:75). In case of husband’s transfer, the priority is usually given to husband’s job, which results in wife’s career or opportunity breakdown. If preference is given to wife’s career, they have to leave apart which again adds to the stress on women. Thus, in order to get relocated every time their husband gets transferred, many women simply fall off their career track and resign themselves and put their own careers at risk.

If we hope to witness any statistic furtherance in female labour participation; it is the foremost responsibility of the government to focus on cultural and social forces that design patriarchy. To ameliorate participation of women in workforce, the need of the hour is to challenge patriarchy.

A part-time policy should be adopted by organizations (wherever possible) in order to introduce flexible working pattern. It can help the organisation cope with changing work conditions and help employees balance their obligations at home and at work. This also supports an organisation to retain its talent.

There is a need to make it mandatory for the organisations to have in-house creche or day care centre within work premises. This facility practically is a road to women empowerment. A professionally-managed daycare facility not only encourages a woman to continue with her job after having a baby but also increases her concentrate at work knowing that her child is in safe hands at next door.

More awareness on how to deal with sexual harassment needs to be created at work place. This can be done by organizing periodic workshops, awareness initiatives, surveys etc.

Essentially, the target is not confined only to amplify female labour force participation but also to produce a right work environment for them, which will, sequentially, contribute to the economic empowerment of women. Focused moves can enlarge the participation of higher educated Indian females back into the labour force.

 

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