The Problem of Gender Inequality in India

by August 17, 2018 0 comments

The Problem of Gender Inequality in IndiaIt is challenging to resolve the deep-rooted decadal habituation when it comes to gender inequality, especially in a society as conventional and deteriorating as ours. But we must keep trying to resolve the issue of gender inequality, say reporter Megha Jain & Aishwarya Nagpal.

The ever-changing space for urban anthropology entails mixed experiences of significant discrimination for the female strata in the ‘public’ sphere of political gatherings, religious performance and economic exchange. The study of gender disparity has captured a focal place in the debate of sociology in a new era. The gravity of the issue is so severe that it has reserved a place in the Indian Economic Survey (2017-18). Ironically, women’s mobility is still controlled and re-negotiated in many societies, except their confined roles to dispense domestic duties.

Traditional ideology behind the ‘protected environment’ actually intends to suppress their individual temperament. As per a recent World Bank report, India and China are the only two nations in the world where infant mortality rate for females is still higher than males even in the 21st century.

What is gender?

In sociological and feminist thought, gender indicates the cultural constitution — comprising notions, perceptions and premises — concerning femininity and masculinity and the ways in which these ideologies maintain gendered identities (Mishra, 2014).

The intensity and magnitude of ‘gender conflicts’ vary demographically across the globe. Unfortunately, supporting statistics confirm that Indian society has witnessed complete marginalisation of the female strata in all fields. This despite proven researches on their power and capacities in creating a prosperous future economy via Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and productivity push. Additionally, the gender gap in labour workforce has crucial macro-economic inferences as well.

Women in development — a critical analysis

: There is prodigious evidence that the effect of economic growth on gender inequality is inadequate and incoherent (Kabeer 2016, Duflo 2012). Even revised contemporary discussions about the new wealth of various nations contain the crucial role of women of Indian society. Besides, many researchers have established the demand-side barriers as to how this section is often loomed to gain from ‘economic development’ (equitable access to jobs, skills development, and fair earnings).

Though employment of women is seen as a vital aspect attached to their respective independence, there are missing links in connecting the nation’s growth with female labour force participation. As proposed by Sarker (2006), Women in Development (WID) approach — that emerged in the 1960s with an emphasis on the need to include them in the development mix — was able to harness their true potential in order to achieve equality for women in socio-economic and political platforms.

As per the World Bank report (2012), though global female labour participation rate has improved from 50.2 per cent in 1980 to 51.8 per cent in 2009 (resulting in narrowing gender differential from 32 per cent to 26 per cent), there still exists substantial under-utilisation and misallocation of women’s skills and talents.

Regrettably, supply-side constraints (particularly those associated with fertility, marriage, and child-rearing) dominate the fortitude of a female’s workforce involvement. Recent reports on economic well-being indicate direct linkage where the well-being of an economy could be a natural driver of female workforce participation.

U-shaped linkage

: A U-shaped hypothesis simply reveals the linkage between the economic growth and women labour force participation. It is proposed that women labour force participation rates first decline and then increase as the country fosters.

Women labour force input is a principal driver as well as a key outcome of economic growth and development. Therefore, participation rates necessarily reflect a country’s potential to advance more rapidly. As per the International Labour Organisation (ILO), India ranks 121 out of 131 nations in Female Labour Force Participation (FLFP), which is the worst in the world.

According to evidence from various studies, it was also established that increasing women workforce contribution causes income disparities to lower down. On the contrary, the composition of transfers from rural to urban areas primarily is male-dominated and thereby leaves lower women’s work involvement.

Global stance

: By international standards, women’s labour force participation in India remains low and it is much lower than that of men. The same has dropped from 33.8 per cent in 2000 to 26.8 per cent in 2015 while male labour force participation saw a jump from 66.2 per cent in 2000 to 73.2 per cent in 2015, thereby averaging to a substantial gender gap of around 46.4 per cent in 2015. This downward trend has been largely elucidated by increasing urbanisation and structural transformation: As households progressed from rural to urban areas, husbands moved out of the agricultural sector, ensuring a disengagement of females from the labour force (exhibiting women’s increased involvement in domestic duties).

The predominance of traditional views of women’s role within households further confines their prospects to participate in paid work and entrepreneurial activities. In addition, women are profoundly exemplified in the informal economy where their vulnerability to exploitation is usually high and they have the slightest formal protection. Further, evidence on broader inclusion of women into conventional finance is thwarting.

Move towards gender equality

: It implies that women and men are on equal footing in terms of core functioning (education, health, and nutrition) as well as for generation of livelihood. Greater gender equality can boost economic productivity and improve development outcomes for the next generation. This is rather an intrinsic than an instrumental goal, explicitly valued as an end in itself than being an instrument for achieving other goals. Current statistics on India’s Gender Inequality Index (given by World Economic Forum) show we are at the 131st spot, which is undoubtedly very low.

It would be anybody’s guess that India needs to make progress towards gender equity, towards attaining economic well-being. Gender disparities remain even as countries develop, which call for sustained and focussed public action. As gender equality evolves, development proceeds. The struggle for parity is far from over.

According to the OECD Employment Outlook 2017, though gender gaps in the labour market and educational attainment across emerging economies have shrunk, progress is still uneven with India being counted among the countries experiencing no change in the gender participation gap at a high level.

Way forward

: As per the recent World Bank report, the explosion of impressive attempts to increase women’s political participation, gender disparities have remained deep and persistent in India despite promising economic growth prospects. It compels synchronised social policies and long-term steps to challenge a socially-embedded problem like gender inequality.

Women work participation avenues to decent jobs are elementary and indispensable constituents of a sustainable development approach. Substantial research has revealed that capitalising women’s complete economic potential is critical for increased productivity and economic growth. In addition, mitigating gender barriers to decent work is essential to stimulate women’s economic empowerment. The current scenario calls for an immediate stringent policy involvement to take care of several aspects like awareness on female education and training programmes, simplifying the burden of household chores, greater well-being of women with private sector work opportunities in industries et al.

There has to be a provision for fair rule applicability, irrespective of the gender (like equal pay for equal work). A pivotal carrier of economic growth over the past century is the increased and extended role of women. Empowering half of the prospective workspace could have sizeable demographic paybacks beyond just endorsing gender equality. The process is not easy at all. It is difficult to undo the deep-rooted decadal conditioning, particularly in a society as conservative and regressive as ours.

But as indicated by Collins: “Women move, world improves.” Time to get moving.

(The writers are Senior Doctoral Scholars, Faculty of Management Studies, University of Delhi)

Writer: Megha Jain/Aishwarya Nagpal

Courtesy: The Pioneer

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