56% of salaried women exited the workforce in India in a year

In comparison to women, only 11% of men exited the workforce, says a report


Whatever the employment arrangement may be, women have always been more disadvantaged than men in the Indian workforce. According to the State of Working India 2021 report by the Azim Premji University, the number of women who have had to quit the workforce has been alarmingly high over the last one year, irrespective of their nature of employment.

Exiting the workforce

Almost 50 per cent of the women exited the workforce compared to only 11 per cent of men. Women who left the workforce, from all classes of work, far outnumbered the men. The maximum exits, 56 per cent, was seen amongst salaried women workers, whereas only 16 per cent of salaried men exited the workforce.

As per the report, the number of women exiting from any work arrangement is at least twice their share in that arrangement in the pre-pandemic period. In fact, when it came to permanent salaried and self-employed work, the share of women leaving was three to four times their share in those categories in the pre-pandemic times.

In the garment sector itself, which employs a major section of salaried women in the country, many workers have been asked to leave. In some cases, they have been forced to give up their jobs with threats that their dues will not be settled if they did not resign. Many factories have tried to get rid of workers by transferring them to difficult and distant locations with minimal facilities.

Entering the workforce

There is a marked difference between the entry of women and men into the workforce. Almost 50 per cent of the workforce last year comprised women who were getting into the workforce for the first time. That means, more women entered the workforce as freshers than men. Not only that, women took up different kinds of jobs as compared to men. While 50 per cent men became self-employed, about 28 per cent took up daily-wage jobs. On the other hand, 43 per cent women became part of the workforce as daily-wage earners and only about 37 per cent got into self-employment.

Staying in the workforce

A study of the men and women who remained employed, reveals that women, in general, seem to stick around in the same job more. In other words, they have displayed higher ‘stickiness’ in the last one year. Except in the case of self-employment, women are more likely to stick with their jobs as compared to men. However, this does not necessarily mean that women enjoy more job security, because after all, the study also revealed that more women left the workforce than men. Therefore, this ‘stickiness’ can be attributed to the lack of backup jobs options. They either stick on to their jobs or are forced to quit without any other employment to fall back on. In other words, either they have no alternatives to take up or are faced with even worse backup arrangements. Worse still, this trend has nothing to do with the unusual times. It is the general trend even when conditions are normal.

For instance, the study reveals that 21 per cent of self-employed women moved to more precarious daily wage work. On the other hand, only 15 per cent of the men faced such a fate.

Similarly, amongst temporary salaried workers, mem moved towards self-employment, while women moved into daily wage work.

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