Women labour is cheap in India

Twenty years of economic reforms have failed to bridge the male-female income disparity.

Rashi Aditi Ghosh/ Zee Research Group

Twenty years of economic reforms have failed to bridge the male-female income disparity, referred to many by as gender gap in earnings. The difference becomes stark when it comes to labour employment.

An official report of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, ranks men better than women as labourers when it comes to compensation. The NSSO report is based on the 66th survey it conducted between July 2009 and June 2010.

The NSSO report found out that urban woman labourers trailed behind their male counterparts with men getting an average wage of Rs 377 as against Rs 309 for women for the same kind of work executed.

The difference in the wages increases in favour of men when it comes to rural India where women get even a worse deal. Rural women receive an average salary of Rs 156 while men get Rs 249, indicating the female-male wage ratio of 0.63.

The government itself rewards men and women differently. Payments under the much publicized UPA social welfare flagship programme, ‘Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme’ (MGNREGS) recorded employment bar for female labourers at Rs 87 (per day) in public works while for men has been recorded at Rs 91 (per day).

Sangeeta Lala, senior vice president, TeamLease Services, a staffing consulting firm, said, “Apart from lower wages, adverse working conditions and lack of basic services at the work places are among the greatest reasons for the fewer participation of women compared to men.”

Ambarish Raghuvanshi, Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Naukri.com said, “Improvement of support system is essential factor to increase women participation. This would in turn automatically equalize the wage as women would participate irrespective of working hours and challenges.”

The NSSO data showed under casual rural labour category engaged in other than public works rural women earned Rs 69 as against Rs 102 for men while in the urban space casual women labourers got Rs 77 as against Rs 132 for men.

The data revealed that female workers’ orientation was more pronounced in case of agriculture in the rural belt. The sector-wise analysis picture of the rural population shows more inclination of women (79 per cent) towards agriculture in comparison to men (63 per cent).

But the industry-wise distribution of workers in the urban areas was distinctly different from that of rural areas. In urban areas, nearly 59 per cent of male workers and 53 per cent of the female workers were engaged in the tertiary sector.

The secondary sector employed nearly 35 per cent of the male and 33 per cent of the female workers. The share of the urban workforce in agriculture was nearly 6 per cent of male and 14 per cent for female workers.

Lala at Teamlease explained the higher number of men as against women in overall employability in the labour category. “Women are presumed to be less flexible and capable than men for certain services, so men are the most preferred options,” she added.

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