Gender equality in the labour market seems like a utopian concept today, with not a single country in the world has achieved it. According to the 2020 edition of the United Nations report on the state of gender equality in the world, there has been no change in the gender gap in the labour market since 1995.
The report titled “World’s Women: Trends and Statistics” released by the UN-DESA provided a reality-check on the global status of women after 25 years since the world adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The report presented the global state of gender equality in six critical areas: Population and families; health; education; economic empowerment and asset ownership; power and decision-making; and violence against women and the girl child as well as the impact of COVID-19.
According to the report, while the status of women has improved in certain aspects such as education, early marriage, childbearing and maternal mortality, there has not been significant progress in certain other areas.
According to the report, only 47 per cent of women of working age participated in the labour market as compared to around 74 per cent men last year. The largest gender gap in labour force participation was observed in the prime working-age of 25-54. This gap has remained unaddressed since 1995 and was at 32 percentage points as of 2020.
In India, the ratio of female-to-male labour force participation rate was 29.80 in 2019 as against the desired ratio of 50 per cent.
Significance of the data in the Report
The significance of the data is that the work of the majority of women is not accounted for economically. This basically means that most of the women are still burdened with unpaid domestic and care work. In fact, it has been estimated that women across the world spent about 4.2 hours a day on unpaid domestic care work. On the other hand, their male counterparts spent 1.7 hours a day on such work, which is about thrice as less as females.
Reasons for Limited Participation of Women in Labour Force
Women are subjected to family responsibilities across the world. The responsibility of household management often falls unequally on women leading to unequal distribution of unpaid domestic and care work. This is among the primary reasons for the limited participation of women in the labour force.
However, the UN report noted that women living alone were more likely to be in the labour market. In fact, the report said, 82 per cent women of prime working-age living alone were in the labour market as compared to 64 per cent women living with a partner and 48 per cent living with a partner and children.
Way Forward to a Future with Gender Equality in Labour Force
The main hurdle for women from participating in the labour force is that of domestic and household responsibilities. So many hours of work put in by women go unaccounted for, which is a big economic loss. The way to bridge this gap is by equal distribution of household responsibilities between men and women.
Employers are often hesitant in hiring women in their workforce considering the extra cost that they might need to incur in form of sick leaves they might need every month during their menstruation, or maternity leave if and when they decide to start a family, or even limitations in terms of availability to work late or travel. In order to provide a level playing field to women, it is important that these concerns are balanced out for men as well as women, by making compulsory sick/rest leave each month for all the employees, equal paternity and maternity leaves and adoption of technology for women to work remotely in case of physical unavailability to travel or work late.
Most importantly, it is important to change the attitude of the society who views women as someone who needs to be responsible for household care and men as someone who needs to earn a living for his family and take up their financial responsibility. To form a harmonious society, both men and women need to share responsibilities of both households as well as finances. In this manner, they would form partnerships of equal rather than vicious inter-dependency which might damage their relationships as well as the mental well-being of their family.