Agriculture

Women’s labour force participation in India among the world’s lowest: Oxfam

Three in four Indian women not employed while the gender pay gap is 34 per cent

By Shagun Kapil
Last Updated: Thursday 28 March 2019
A female farmer harvesting wheat. Photo: Getty Images

Irrespective of employment category (casual and regular/salaried), organised or unorganised sector, and location (urban and rural), women workers in India are paid a lower wage rate, says a report by Oxfam, an international non-profit organisation.

The gender pay gap was 34 per cent in India, that is, women get 34 per cent less compared to men for performing the same job with same qualifications, says the report, which based its estimates on employment unemployment survey (EUS) 2011-12, done by the National Sample Survey Oganisation (NSSO), International Labour Organization (ILO) studies, and also builds on the first inequality report launched by Oxfam in 2018.  

Analysing the gender pay gaps in the organised sector across different occupations and different enterprise type, it says that women professionals even in the highest ranks of labour (legislators, senior officials, and managers) are also paid less compared to their male counterparts. However, these women constitute only one per cent of the total female work force and the gap is lowest as they are aware of their rights.

The wage difference is lesser for more skilled workers and more for semi-skilled or unskilled workers. Across enterprise type, wage difference is less for government/public sector and public/private limited company.

Large pay gaps in terms of average daily wages exist in male and female wage rates of casual and regular workers in rural and urban areas and the gap is narrower for regular workers in urban areas. On the other hand, for casual workers, wage gap is narrower in rural areas.

A casual labourer is a person who is casually engaged in others’ farm or non-farm enterprises (both household and non-household) and, in return, receives wages according to the terms of the daily or periodic work contract.

The report stresses that while inequality in jobs has increased, inequality in education has decreased between boys and girls. But this situation further exacerbates the crisis in jobs when it comes to women. Even as girls frequently outperform boys in school examinations, they are not finding suitable jobs for the skills that they have.

“Women’s labour force participation in India is one of the lowest in the world. Women comprise half of the Indian population but make up less than a quarter of the labour force. Three in four Indian women do not work in the country. Looking at the extremely low levels of participation of women in the labour market makes one wonder whether the phenomenal success of India’s economic transition forgot about its women and left them behind,” says the report titled, Mind the Gap, The State of Employment in India.  

The report also talks about the ‘feminisation of agriculture’ and how it should not be celebrated. Quoting a study, the report says that while both men and women are diversifying out of agriculture, almost 75 per cent of rural women are still engaged in it. 

“A patriarchal ideology and local socio-cultural traditions confine women to the village where agriculture continues to be their most important (but insufficient) source of food and income. Male outmigration has also pushed women into taking on more responsibility of own cultivation and to perform wage labour to ensure households’ daily survival,” it says.

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