By Lata Jha:

It would be both interesting and shocking for a lot of us to know that Seelampur in Delhi has the lowest proportion of working women across any district in the capital, a city that itself has the lowest proportion of working women in all of metropolitan India. Just 5 percent of women in Seelampur had done even one day’s paid work in 2011, according to the census, half the rate for Delhi.

The lack of female participation in the workforce is a severe economic problem in India, serious by any benchmark. It’s a symptom of deeper social issues. First, the fact that women are seen primarily as care givers, and bear a disproportionate share in housework and domestic duties in India. Then there is the culture that prevents them from stepping out of homes in the first place and gaining financial independence.

women workforce

What makes this crisis even more worrying is that female workforce participation in India isn’t only extraordinarily low, it’s also falling. Three main hypotheses have been put forward to explain this decline and minimise the need for alarm.

The first says that more young women are staying on in higher education, and fewer are looking for jobs today. But the low numbers of women in higher education refute this claim.

The second is that as Indian families get richer, they pull their women out of the workforce. Although this is a cultural phenomenon observed in India, one can’t really be sure of the generalisation.

The third hypothesis relates to the entire method of data collection. It is quite likely that the Indian statistical system does not take into account several kinds of unorganised work, which constitutes roughly 90 percent of all employment in India. In addition, it is possible that enumerators did not really ask women probing questions. As a result, the workforce figures may not have captured women who did not immediately see their own work as economically productive or, more fundamentally, important.

All this happens in an economy that has added no net new jobs in the last five years. While industrialised nations such as Japan are actively encouraging their women to join the workforce and try to make up for an ageing population, things in India don’t seem to be getting better any time soon.

And these are things that numbers cannot tell you as well as the women of Seelampur.

Comments
Harvey Specter
Posted at 9:33 pm August 8, 2013
Manan Grover
Reply
Author

Gone are the days when India was an agrarian economy and only men could contribute to the economy. Our country has come a long way since then, The RTE and several other education laws now ensure that girls get equal education as boys.
But due to the patriarchal nature of the indian society, a woman’s job is still considered less important than her husband’s. Her need in raising the family and children is considered more important. But what people fail to see is that time again women have proved that they can handle their personal as well as work lives very confidently and smoothly.

i just hope if women like Chanda Kochar, Kiran Majumdar Shaw have been able to insipre urban women to work, we have more inspirational stories coming from the rural areas as well.

    Harvey Specter
    Posted at 11:12 pm August 8, 2013
    Raj
    Reply
    Author

    Again with patriarchy. Yes, men’s jobs which involve getting killed, getting shot, getting blown apart, getting electrocuted, getting burnt, getting buried in mines etc. are all so important that men won’t allow women to bask in the glory of such jobs.

Harvey Specter
Posted at 3:43 pm August 8, 2013
Raj
Reply
Author

What about having kids? Taking care of kids is a huge headache and almost always, women do that work. It is certainly not counted as employment but somebody has to do it.
And does the husband have financial independence? Doesn’t he earn 100% of the money but has only a fraction of it spent on himself?

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