What Indian Women Wish For
The republic day parade is time for pride and patriotism. Reforms that take place slowly cannot be put on a parade. Indian women workforce from the MBA level to rural labour has been falling in the past few years. So here is a wishlist from Basis on what women need so that they can get back in work and proudly be independent.
We have a problem. India’s Female Labour Workforce is falling in the past two decades and it is much worse off than some of our neighbouring developing countries. It has gone from 34.1% in 1999-2000 to 24.2% in 2011-12.
Studies show that 41 per cent of females enroll in colleges, but only 27 per cent currently remain in the workforce. Why is it important for women to work? For the country, it would be really huge. If India achieves gender equality it could contribute to $700 billion in GDP growth by 2025. This would have a larger economic impact than any other region.
For the individual woman, it would bring better financial freedom to exercise choices, whether it the choice of her higher education, life partner or career. While it cannot make women immune to abuse, financial independence would make them less susceptible to it.
It is not just about earning money, but being in charge of your life and the means to shape it.
The HRD minister Prakash Javadekar recently said that women don’t apply and don’t work.
But why don’t they work? For a whole host of reasons; economic, social and how both these play out at workplaces and homes. Let’s look at them and see ways to beat the hurdles. To be able to work, women need the following things and more:
Education as equals: Yes, more girl children get into schools than before, but is that enough? What is the level of education that girls get and how much of it is focussed to help them be employable? Income in many households gets divided in the favour of the male child to get the higher education that makes him easily employable. Even when they do get educated, first-time graduates in economically underprivileged backgrounds may have no access to information for employment opportunities or skills developments.
Marriage penalty: In India marriage is a foregone conclusion for most people. While married men are seen as more stable, it works the opposite for women. Marriage is one of the top reasons for women in India to stop working. An article quotes the latest figures from the National Family Health Survey, according to which the average age at first marriage in India is 18 for rural and 19.4 for urban women. With expected childbirth soon after, the time for women to be economically active is very small.
Better working environment: A whole host of reforms from companies and the government are most needed to create a better ecosystem for women to work. Equal pay for equal work, safer workplaces with adequate legal means to report workplace harassment, remote working facilities and many more.
Childcare facilities: After marriage, this is the topmost reason for women to drop out of the workforce and a whole lot do not join back. Better childcare facilities, support from corporates and well-designed maternity and paternity leave is the call of the hour.
Bring the men in: A strong factor that women do not prefer to work after marriage is that they feel they already are doing a job – household work. While women move to the public workspace, the presence of men into home chores has not been the same. An often non-measured element of work women do, including ones that occupy mind space is often ’invisible’. Men in leadership positions more often than not have spouses who hold the fort at home but women do not have such luck.
A popular wise saying goes “If you are not equal in the house you cannot be equal outside.” Raising children of both genders with a strong work ethic, be it at home or outside is what is needed.
The wish list is complex and needs to be fulfilled in equal parts by the government, society at large and women themselves. This Republic Day, let’s talk a pledge for equality of the genders, be it social, cultural or financial. Jai Hind!