Labour, Jobs and Employment – Harmonization of labour laws, gender gap, unemployment, etc.

To reverse women leaving the workforce, policies must change behaviour before they change beliefs

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Mains Paper 2: Governance | Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and Bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Important issue of women’s workforce is discussed in the article. The UPSC is known to ask questions on these kind of issues.



  1. In most countries, higher numbers of educated women have resulted in the improvement of their societal status and economic participation
  2. But in women’s participation in economic sector is very low
  3. The article talks about this serious issue

Low participation of women in the economic sphere

  1. Only 27 per cent of working-age women in India work
  2. The number fell sharply in the last decade from 43 per cent to 27 per cent
  3. Nepal and Bangladesh are way ahead, leaving only the Arab countries and Pakistan behind India

The World Bank report, ‘Precarious Drop: Reassessing Patterns of Female Labour Force Participation in India‘

  1. According tot the report, participation of women in economic sector depends on their marital-status, age, education, family labour composition and whether in rural or urban India
  2. Stability in family income levels also lead to women dropping out of the workforce
  3. Other factors include lower levels of job creation, availability of very low paying jobs in the informal sector, poor infrastructure, safety issues, and boys outnumbering girls in technical and professional education
  4. The study concludes that “education skilling and legal provisions may not be sufficient”

What are the acceptable norms of work in India?

  1. In a heterogeneous country like India, ‘acceptable’ norms of work may differ based on income, caste, rural/urban and informal/formal sector
  2. One belief is allpervasive: women are primarily homemakers and men breadwinners

Is breaking stereotypes really difficult?

  1. Research in neuroscience states that deep-seated ‘typical’ beliefs regarding race, caste, gender and other social categories get embedded or hardwired in the brain
  2. Inaccurate to start with, the brain finds it difficult to ‘unlearn’ them even when the reality has changed. It interprets new data in a biased manner to confirm originally held beliefs (confirmatory bias)

Can behavioural changes counter these stereotypes?

  1. Research in behavioural design provides evidence that this is indeed possible and has been successfully pursued in many countries
  2. There are ‘behavioural insights’ groups advising governments in the US, Britain, Australia and Germany

Misguided policies

  1. Government and corporate sector policies, instead of taking steps to encourage and hasten this permeability, have been misguided
  2. The flawed legislation introduced recently increasing maternity benefits from three to six months is a case in point
  3. For ensuring that women don’t opt out of work, it reinforces gendered norms and unwittingly places women at a disadvantage
  4. What could have helped instead is a combination of maternity and paternity leave, on a ‘use it or it lapses’ basis

The way forward

  1. Involving women in the decisionmaking process and in leadership roles, rather than providing benefits passively, can have far-reaching benefits
  2. Behavioral design, when complemented by a judicious mix of legislation and incentives, can go a long way in resetting norms sooner
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