A recent study by the ministry of labor, India projected that women in urban India are at least four times as unlikely to be paid for the same work as their male counterparts and the highly educated being less likely to be a part of the labor force of the country. Why is it so? For all we know, women have been fighting for a major part of the last century to assert themselves and their rights. So why are the statistics of this new research so disturbing?
Firstly we must recognize that the general term, Labor Force and its economic meaning are quite different. In economics everybody apart from children below 18, old citizens of a country beyond 60 and institutionalized individuals constitutes the potential labor force. Simply put everybody available to work, whether willingly or otherwise. Under this base of potential workers, the labor force only constitutes of those willing to work, also including those seeking employment but unable to find so. With this in mind let’s look at some concerning statistics:
- 39% of women well trained in vocational studies were not a part of the labor force in 2013/14
- 524 Vs. 391, average earnings of a man against that of a woman.
- The male to female participation rate in rural India is 2.6 is to 1, which is way better than that of urban India.
These are some intimidating statistics. From concerns of facing discrimination in the workplace, unequal pay and the numerous cases of sexual assault and harassment that go unnoticed, women who often choose to be homemakers are counted as unemployed thus pushing the numbers even higher. It was also noticed as a widespread phenomenon that as a women’s education level increases, their labor participation rate falls. In 2009/10, 55% of the women who had obtained post-graduate level education had opted not to join the workforce. Apart from the fact that they are often pressurized by their families to give up serious career prospects to “attend to domestic duties”, a lot of them on finding suitably earning partners, capable of providing for the family, tend to drop out of the workforce. Often the lack of family-friendly parental labor laws force women to leave, not providing for a comeback policy. Rising child care costs and stagnant wages is distressing. Studies state that if women do join the workforce, they are likely to come up as managers and senior managers. The definition stated above also conveniently ignores the contribution of women who choose to be homemakers by categorizing them as potential labor force although unwilling to work thus belittling their contribution to the economy.
The economic theory of Added Worker Effect somewhat explains this occurrence and as all theories in economics, it is disputable. Underlying this theory is the assumption that married women are secondary workers with a less permanent attachment to the labor market than their partners (primary workers). Often if the primary partner earns enough to support the family, the secondary partner stays at home. In rural India, where jobs are not permanent, and both men and women lose their jobs due to seasonal changes in occupation, women step out of house in search of employment and hence the low rates of drop out from the labor force in rural India.