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Women Workforce participation and India’s Industry norms – Critical analysis

India is a growing country every day based on factors like social, political, economic, and ethical. Whereas, people of this country developing their consciousness towards their involvement in every sector.  Throughout history, people have faced educational backwardness, poverty, and other social challenges but the modern era provides every individual with if not the best but at least decent opportunities to grow. 

But there are two facets of the situation in India. The positive and negative. Today in this article we are going to talk about the status of women in the employment sector and the challenges they face. 

Earlier was the time of an orthodox and patriarchal subordination system where women were not allowed to step out from home and were only expected to manage the household affairs meanwhile the men or the superior men would go out and bring bread for the family. But with the evolution of decades, the social considerations of society have also been changed.

In India, the Government through its laws, bye-laws, and reservations tries to provide a boost for women to enter into the labor force and contribute to the development of society through political and economic means. Recently the bill was passed in parliament for reserving seats for women in Lok sabha and Rajya sabha to give them a biased advantage to promote the workforce in every sector and speak out challenges they face in the society. 

Women’s Participation in the Workforce

When we talk about the workforce in any organization, be it private or public, we often find that sirs are more in numbers than madams. Say it is a culture influencing its precedence or the economically viable norms of organizations but yes, women were less involved in the workforce participation. But to add here, although the trends have been something different from the last 10 years compared to its own last 10 years, we will get a significant amount of involvement of women in the workforce. 

According to the Periodic Labour Force Survey Report 2022-23 released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation on 9th October 2023 shows that the Female Labour Force Participation Rate in the country has improved significantly by 4.2 percentage points to 37.0% in 2023, as per ‘usual status’ concept of measuring labor force participation.

This significant jump in the female labor force participation rate is an outcome of the decisive agenda set by the Government for ensuring women’s empowerment through policy initiatives aimed at their long-term socio-economic and political development. Government initiatives have spanned across women’s lifecycles including large initiatives for girls’ education, skill development, entrepreneurship facilitation, and safety in the workplace. Policies and legislations in these areas have been driving the Government’s ‘women-led development’ agenda.

Moreover, female workforce participation is still low to the participation of men but still, it has shown a significant increase in number as more factors are responsible for women’s participation in the workforce which cannot be measured on one scale. It is also miserable to note the outcomes of various data that the Women’s Labour force participation from rural areas is higher than from urban areas with a push of 12%  and LFPR of 36% in 2022 for the rural sector and a push of 3.4% and LFPR of 23% in 2022  for the urban sector. Through this, we can easily get the pace at which India’s rural sector is growing in many aspects. As it is meant, women’s participation is directly proportional to women’s empowerment and if women are empowered society will be empowered.

Challenges restraining Women’s Participation

The concept of women’s participation in the workforce is a very subjective topic in the socio-economic factors of this country affecting the participation rate due to many challenges, some of them noted as :

1.  Access to employment and Migration –  presents significant challenges for women in the industrial sector. Despite strides towards gender equality, women still encounter barriers when seeking employment in certain industries, often facing discrimination and bias in recruitment processes. Additionally, migration for employment opportunities can pose unique challenges for women due to cultural norms, family responsibilities, and safety concerns. These obstacles can limit women’s access to job opportunities, hinder their career advancement, and perpetuate gender disparities in the workforce. Addressing these challenges requires concerted efforts to dismantle systemic barriers, promote inclusive hiring practices, and provide support for women’s economic empowerment and mobility.

2. Working conditions and Health Factors – Many organizations are not in a condition to provide women with a healthy and decent workplace to manage. Ignoring the SOPs such as washrooms, washing areas, crèches, etc set by various labor laws in the country for the organization, these are hugely neglected which leads to almost elimination of chances for any women to work in the condition. Moreover, maternity benefits and menstrual leave policies hugely influence organizations to make a decision on preferring men in the workforce over women.

3. Wage parity – women are getting less paid compared to men dragging a wage parity between the two genders. In the same position with the same responsibilities, women are supposed to do work at a lower wage and men are getting paid higher the reasons behind this could be many which cannot be summed up in a short article.

4.  Sophisticated norms for the development of society – Many schools mainly private have the rules or say criteria for getting admission of the child on one condition that at least one of their parents has to be a homemaker or not working which duly or indirectly pushes women to be in that position and manage the household affairs while men will be the breadwinner of the family. Where on the one hand Government trying to push the participation of women in workforce, these external/foreign Diaspora norms are pulling back the society with their so called criteria for development.

5. Safety at the workplace – keeping aside the development agendas this world is having towards a bright future and all the assurance given for safety and security to the members of the organization the real truth which screams out largely on a regular basis is sexual harassment at the workplace. Yes, this is the harsh truth and actual reality that is witnessed by each and every single woman ever in their workplace.  When I say each, I literally mean each. Also, the impression of this shadow is not just limited to the modeling or corporate industries, it has its cast even on the doors of buildings where justice is being provided in the name of law.  Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (PoSH) is a new challenge for industry facilitators to comply with the rules laid down in the act. The workshop and training which regards the female members of the organization with a sense of security at their workplace is a challenge for organizations that they largely avoid.

Way forward

The challenges facing the women’s labour force in our country extend far beyond specific industries; they permeate society like the intricate roots and branches of a mangrove forest. These challenges form dense barriers, often making it arduous for women to fully engage in the active workforce and contribute to the nation’s development. Despite India’s commendable strides in achieving numerous milestones with women at the forefront, there remain myriad hurdles that must be addressed to unleash the true potential of India’s strength: the equal and empowered participation of women in the workforce. These challenges stem from a complex interplay of factors, including deep-seated societal norms, economic disparities, and institutional barriers.

Gender bias and discrimination persist in hiring practices and workplace cultures, deterring women from pursuing careers in certain sectors or advancing to leadership positions. Moreover, women continue to shoulder a disproportionate burden of caregiving responsibilities, constraining their ability to fully commit to their professional aspirations. Access to quality education and vocational training remains unequal, further perpetuating disparities in skill development and employment opportunities. Additionally, safety concerns in hazardous industries present formidable obstacles for women, reinforcing stereotypes and discouraging their entry into traditionally male-dominated fields. To overcome these challenges and harness the untapped potential of the women’s workforce, concerted efforts are needed to dismantle systemic barriers, promote gender equality at all levels of society, and create inclusive policies and workplaces that enable women to thrive.

By empowering women economically and socially, we not only unlock new avenues for growth and innovation but also foster a more equitable and prosperous society for all.

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Rahul yadav

Corporate Law Student | Strategic Business Management and Development | Managing Business Development Consultancy and Ed. tech Startups |

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