From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Not much
Mains level : Paper 2- Disproportionate burden of pandemic on women
The article highlights the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women and suggests measures to soften the impact.
Widening gender employment gap
- Even prior to 2020, the gender employment gap was large.
- Only 18% of working-age women were employed as compared to 75% of men.
- Reasons include a lack of good jobs, restrictive social norms, and the burden of household work.
- The nationwide lockdown hit women much harder than men.
- Data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy Pvt. Ltd. show that 61% of male workers were unaffected during the lockdown while only 19% of women experienced this kind of security.
- Men who did lose work were able to regain it, even if it was at the cost of increased precarity or lower earnings, because they had the option of moving into fallback employment arrangements.
- Even as new entrants to the workforce, women workers had poorer options compared to men.
- Women were more likely to enter as daily wage workers while men found avenues for self-employment.
- So, not only did women enter into more precarious work, it was also likely to be at very low earnings compared to men.
Growing domestic work
- With schools closed and almost everyone limited to the confines of their homes, household responsibilities increased for women.
- The India Working Survey 2020 found that among employed men, the number of hours spent on paid work remained more or less unchanged after the pandemic.
- But for women, the number of hours spent in domestic work increased manifold.
- This increase in hours came without any accompanying relief in the hours spent on paid work.
- The following measures are needed now:
- The National Employment Policy, currently in the works, should systematically address the constraints around the participation of the women’s workforce.
- Expansion of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and the introduction of an urban employment guarantee targeted to women as soon as the most severe forms of mobility restrictions are lifted.
- There is a need for coordinated efforts by States to facilitate the employment of women while also addressing immediate needs through the setting up of community kitchens, the opening of schools and anganwadi centres, and engagement with self-help groups for the production of personal protective equipment kits.
- Further, a COVID-19 hardship allowance of at least ₹5,000 per month for six months should be announced for 2.5 million accredited social health activists and Anganwadi workers, most of whom are women.
- The pandemic has shown the necessity of adequate public investment in social infrastructure.
- The time is right to imagine a bold universal basic services programme that not only fills existing vacancies in the social sector but also expands public investments in health, education, child and elderly care, and so on, to be prepared for future shocks.
Consider the question “Examine the impact of the pandemic on women. Suggest the measures to mitigate the impact.”
As the country meets the challenge of the second wave of the pandemic, it is crucial to learn lessons from the first wave to chart the policy path ahead.