Annie Samson, PTI
New Delhi: The women in India work more than men in absolute terms, but with a huge chunk of them being in the informal sector and out of the labour market workforce, they are not getting the rightful monetary returns for their rigours, experts say.
Take for example the milk vendor’s wife in a typical Indian village who plays a very important role. She cleans out the cowshed, ensures that the cows have their daily fodder, fills the milk cans and oftentimes even milks the cows, apart from her other everyday chores.
She is just one in a huge chunk of women in the country who fall into the lowest end of the economy’s production value chain and are not considered part of the labour market workforce, thus depriving them of monetary renumeration.
For many women, household work takes up majority of their time with much less time spent in jobs for which they get paid. Even when they take part in the labour market for paid employment, women continue to do a majority of the household work, act as major care givers and absorb a large share of the burden of men.
The informal sector in the country contributes more than 60% of the GDP. And women play a major role, says Anushree Sinha, senior economist at the National Council of Applied Economic Research, an independent think-tank.
Out of data that she has taken out from latest National Sample Surveys, Sinha points out, “Roughly 26% of women contribute to the formal labour market and produce 18% of the GDP in the country.”
According to the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) latest annual survey, India has the lowest female workforce participation in the region could add a full percent point a year to its annual GDP if the proportion of working women is increased to levels comparable with that of the United States.
It points out that India loses about Rs1,900 crore just because it does not have more women in its workforce and suggests that economy of the country could gain significantly if it had more women working.
However some experts say that it is a very narrow point of view. “Marketwise the participation of women has been limited. There has been a merging of work done by women in the market and in the household. A lot of work they do fall under the unorganised sector. So just increasing the number of women in the workforce is not a solution,” says Anushree Sinha.
“A lot of women are working in the informal sector for example the garment sector. The productivity of the formal sector is very high because only about 10% of the total population are contributing around 40% of the GDP, Sinha explains.
In India, labour is moving from the formal to informal sector but not capital. Informal workers, a huge chunk of them women, are paid very poorly, face the threat of being fired at the whims and fancies of their employers and also do not have access to compensation if they are injured while at work.
Also, women are working longer hours than men across the developing world. In India, women work approximately one hour and six minutes more than their male counterparts, says the Unicef’s State of the World’s Children report, 2007.
The report points out that when women work outside the household, they earn, on average, far less than men and also tend to own fewer assets. Smaller salaries and less control over household income constrain their ability to accumulate capital and also says that paid employment for women does not automatically lead to better outcomes for children.