Lip service on Women’s Day: A long way to go for gender equality in rural incomes
Women in rural India form one of the poorest sections of the population. While lip service is paid to gender equality on Women’s Day, the fact is that the gap in pay between male and female workers in rural India is not only very wide, but also nothing much seems to have been done about it.
The difference between the income of men and women has been an important indicator flagged worldwide in arguments involving gender equality. With economic progress, it is desirable that the dividends of high growth be distributed equally among both the genders. But a look at rural India’s wage gap between men and women paints a grim picture.
In 2006-07, women earned about 60% of what their male counterparts got in rural India. Fast forward to a decade later, rural women’s wages are around two-thirds of the average wages of rural male workers. In 2011-12, this ratio was better, at 67.5%. Data has been taken from Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy. Over the same period, the size of the Indian economy has grown by leaps and bounds. Clearly, the dividends of high growth have not benefited women as much as men.
If we look at average wages in agriculture, women get paid about 72% of what men get. A decade ago, in 2007-08, they were paid about 70% of what male agricultural workers received.
The situation is no better in the case of non-agricultural labour. As of November last year, women were paid 72% of what men earned for rural construction work. Five years ago, they used to earn 74% of what their male counterparts got.
India may have entered the league of the fastest-growing economies of the world but its rankings on gender pay gap have only worsened. The country fell 21 places to the 108th position in a world gender pay gap ranking by a World Economic Forum survey in 2017. Rural India is testament to the fact that we have a long way to go to bridge the pay gap.