A report released by the Centre for Sustainable Employment of the Azim Premji University on Tuesday states that the gender gap varies widely i.e. between 35-85 percent, depending on the type of work and the level of education of the worker. Apart from the wage gap, the Indian economy still remains heavily gender segregated.
“Occupationally, women are underrepresented among senior officers, legislators and managers. The situation has worsened with the proportion falling from 13 percent in 2011 to 7 percent in 2015. On the other hand, female representation is on par with their overall presence in the workforce in relatively high-paying professional jobs,” read the report. The thing to remember is that the paid workforce is still heavily male-dominated in general.
The report also detailed how the gender wage gap had declined across all occupations in general, but remained high among service and domestic workers as of 2011. The gap reduced when it came to factory and home-based workers in female-dominated industries like food, textiles, tobacco, apparel etc.
While the participation of women in the paid workforce is low, some states are doing better than others.
According to the report, “while only 20 women are in paid employment for every 100 men in UP, this number is 50 in Tamil Nadu and 70 in the north-east.” It also observed that government programmes like MGNREGA, anganwadis, ASHA have played a major role in increasing women’s participation in the paid workforce.
In 2015, the percentage of men reporting earnings up to Rs 5000 or less was 43 percent, far less than the 71 percent of women whose earnings fell in the same bracket. Eight two percent of male and 92 percent of female workers earned less than Rs 10,000 a month.
Prepared by researchers, journalists, civil society activists, and policymakers interested in labour and employment issues, the report titled State of Working India 2018 is an attempt to provide inputs on the state of work and workers in India and to ultimately propose policies. It has mainly used data from National Sample Survey and Employment-Unemployment Survey (EUS) of the Labour Bureau.
Rate of Unemployment in India Highest in 20 Years
One of the major challenges put forth by the report is of rising unemployment that has been compounded by the problem of depressed wages. According to the report, the rate of unemployment in the country is the highest it has been in the last 20 years.
While it used to be said that India’s major issue was low wages and underemployment, the economy is currently reeling under a large amount of open unemployment, which is at 5 percent overall and 16 percent among the youth and the higher educated.
Open unemployment is a condition in which people have no work to do. They are able to work and are also willing to work but there is no work for them.
It also pointed out that GDP growth created fewer jobs than it used to.
“In the 1970s and 1980s, when GDP growth was around 3-4 percent, employment growth was around 2 percent per annum. Since the 1990s, and particularly in the 2000s, GDP growth has accelerated to 7 percent but employment growth has slowed to 1 percent or even less.”
Wages on the Rise but Well Below Seventh Central Pay Commission
Adjusted for inflation, wage rates have grown in most sectors at 3 percent per annum or more. In the last 18 years, real wages have grown at the rate of 3-4 percent in most sectors, except agriculture.
“India’s low earnings problem continues despite wage growth in the recent past. Nationally, 67 percent of households reported monthly earnings of up to Rs 10,000. In total, 98 percent earned less than Rs 50,000 per month. In comparison, the minimum salary recommended by the Seventh Central Pay Commission (CPC) is Rs 18,000 per month. This suggests that a large majority of Indians are not being paid what may be termed a living wage, and it explains the intense hunger for government jobs,” reads the report.
Living wage is described as a wage that is high enough to maintain a normal standard of living.
In the age of corporate compensation packages exceeding Rs 20 lakh a year, it is sobering to learn that earning over Rs 1 lakh per month puts a household in the top 0.2 percent of income earners in the country.
Labour Productivity up but Wages not in Tandem
According to the report: “Labour productivity in organised manufacturing increased by six times over the past three decades but wages increased by only 1.5 times.”
Neither the organised nor the unorganised sectors saw a corresponding increase in wages and productivity, with even the salaries of managers and supervisors growing at a much slower pace than productivity growth.
Caste and the Workforce
The report concludes that while caste based segregation persists, the situation has improved in some areas.
“SC as well as ST groups are over-represented in low paying occupations and severely under-represented in the high paying occupations, a clear indication of the enduring power of caste-based segregation in India. On the other hand, both SC and ST groups are much better represented in public administration indicating the success of reservation policies over the years.”
It also observed that SCs earn only 56 percent of upper-caste earnings. The figure is 55 percent for STs and 72 per cent for OBCs.
India’s structural transformation has been slower than desired. There is an urgent need to think comprehensively about employment policy that can deliver this transformation.
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