Concept Note

According to the recently released Global Gender Gap Report 2021 by the World Economic Forum, India has fallen 28 points and stood at 140th position in gender parity out of 156 countries and in terms of the sub-index- economic participation and opportunities, India is placed abysmally low at 151 (only better placed that Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Afghanistan). It is because India has recorded one of the lowest female labour force participation rates (LFPR) in the world in 2018-19. The low and declining LFPR of women can partially be explained by the demand and supply-side factors but the issue of mismeasurement related to women’s work also plays an important role. Sociological explanations specifically related to patriarchal and cultural norms which restrict women’s mobility and her agency, also interact in a complex way to determine the decision and ability of women to participate in the labour force. United Nations put out the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) which underscores specific goals to promote gender equality and empowerment by eliminating gender disparities as well looks at all the goals from a gender equality lens. India is a signatory to this but still, the labour market outcome indicators are not gender-neutral in India and there remains a long way to go.

The recently released Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) 2020 indicated a further decline by eight percent compared to the same period (i.e. April-June) last year. In this first official labour force survey report, the impact of the COVID-19 national lockdown on employment indicators was witnessed and which echoes the findings of the Consumer Pyramid Household Survey (CPHS) data by Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). According to the CMIE data when India was experiencing six percent growth rate between 2016-17 to 2019-20, total employment declined from 413 million to 409 million. The results indicate that the relative fall in employment was greater for women, compared to their pre-pandemic level and even during the post-lockdown phase, job revival was not gender neutral. In India, men mostly recovered their jobs by November 2020, but women faced an overall loss in employment by 49 percent. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically reduced employment opportunities and set India back by a generation in bridging gender gap in Economic Participation and Opportunity.

Delhi is not an exception to this and it also recorded a similar decline in women LFPR and LFPR has always remained below the national average even during the pre-pandemic period. Keeping all the above explanations in view, a Seminar is proposed to understand the multiple facets of women’s paid and unpaid work, gendered occupational segregation, lack of upward mobility within the existing patterns of work and social security benefits in the informal sectors 2 | P a g e of employment in India with a special focus on Delhi. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic intensified the pre-existing gender inequalities and limited women’s participation in labour market (ISST, 2020i ; 2021ii). Women workers also suffer gender-based differences due to their geographical location, limited mobilities, lack of safety in workplaces and vulnerabilities in terms of violence. Further, unpaid work and lack of basic social infrastructure take away a large part of women's time, which could have been invested in any other activities. While these are the major issues for women workers in India but it has to be looked upon along with the changes of globalisation and the changing pattern of capital accumulation. Some newer clusters of women occupations have emerged with globalisation and now women are increasingly being involved in specific sectors of work such as garments, domestic services, low value-added Information Technology enabled Services (ITeS) and home-based work in India.

In order to understand all these, Institute of Social Studies Trust (ISST) and Institute for Human Development are organising a two-day Virtual Seminar on “Women’s Work in Delhi: Dimensions, Challenges and Emerging Issues” on 17-18 August 2021. The Seminar will focus on the barriers to women's economic empowerment and offer concrete way out to eliminate all these by working towards engendering existing policies and programmes.

The broad objectives of this Virtual Seminar are:

  • To present existing evidence from both secondary and primary surveys as well as academic research that discuss the role of women’s involvment in different paid and unpaid activities in India with a clear focus on Delhi.
  • To understand the role of transport, safety, skill development, and childcare provisioning in creating an enabling environment for women workers.
  • To highlight evidence gaps that exist and suggest ways in which such evidence can be created to achieve gender equality in the labour market.