Women workers suffered most in India during pandemic; govt policies still unfavourable for female employees
After the general lockdown in the country, women were the first to face destitution as between March and April 2020, about 37% of them lost jobs, which was 15.4 millions in number
After pandemic, there has been a steady decline in the quality of life of all the sections in the society especially for those living on the margins. Though there are those corporates too who do not have to face the same deprivation, it is for them alone that the rest suffer intensely.
Among other variants that facilitate the path of finance capital, there has been a fall in production, banks are getting privatised and loans for investment are scarce, the only sector that offered optimism and helped bring the GDP growth from - 35 per cent to 0.04 per cent was the agriculture sector. Despite its positive role, there are the three demonic agrarian laws against which the farmers are on Dharna at the borders of the capital for more than hundred days. Pushing away all other essentials, just to keep alive, one needs food, which is also getting scant everyday with exorbitant hike in prices.
Another wave of Pandemic waiting in the anvil, there is only gloom and deprivation closing down all the openings. There is loss of jobs, as according to reports, the pandemic, spread across the year in 2020, has already left most of the households deeply indebted. Indebtedness has jumped to 37.1 per cent of the GDP in the second quarter of the financial year of 2020-2021 and their savings have declined to 10.4 per cent according to reports from Reserve Bank of India.
There have been severe cuts in the salaries in every sector. To make the ends meet, there has been growing indebtedness. The savings reserved for emergency is also vanishing as resources are drying up. On top of all this has been loss of jobs for tens of millions. In the credit market the household had its share going up to 51.5 per cent by second quarter of the year.
Usually, women are at the centre of household affairs, attending to the basic needs of the family. But so far as earnings go, after the general lockdown in the country, women were the first to face destitution as between March and April 2020, about 37 per cent of them lost jobs, which was 15.4 millions in number. The male workers amounted to 28 per cent as compared to women.
According to data available of October 2020, the women workforce in the country came down by 10.5 per cent while for men, it was only two per cent. In November 2020, the percentage of women labour was 2.4 per cent lower than 2019. In urban areas, women were scarce in employment, as it was down by 22.83 percent. The end of 2020 too saw the fast decline in number of women in employment especially in the urban areas.
Further, only nine per cent of the women of working age groups have jobs compared to 68 per cent men even after they had lost their primary jobs.
Then there is the harrowing tales of men and women, with kids and old age parents walking hundreds of kilometres without food and even water to reach home where they hoped to find solace and security. But those dreams fell apart once they reached there. Among the worst sufferers were the women migrants and they comprised 20 per cent of the entire migrant population on foot. Women had their own problems of security and safety. When they came back to their jobs, which they had to leave because of lock out in factories, they were offered less salary as compared to the male workers for the same jobs. They are neither able to pay their room rents nor can afford other essentials.
The factory owners prefer men than women and the bias has made their reemployment even more difficult. However there are jobs exclusively for women like domestic help, work at construction sites. But these openings are not many and most of them live in extreme penury. The restrain in the mobility has come as a great interruption in their lives as they cannot move out for various reasons. The graph of women getting tortured, killed or violated has been rising in all these months. It is getting increasingly difficult for them to access their work places. Then there are the shifts and late night duties.
According to the report of National Family and Health Survey (2015-16), when pandemic horrors were not known, only 54 per cent of women were allowed to go to the market alone. This makes them further dependent and helpless. They cannot manage even their personal affairs, like studies, healthcare but all this is not new. Dependence is of course not denial of freedom, it is mostly confessional, not on part of women, but on part of the society as a whole.
The plight of women workers at every level, in every section became more pronounced during lockdown and undeniably is the reflection of a system that is ailing, and also eroding. There is imperative need for change, and it is in the basics where the content has to be different.
Views expressed are personal