Bringing Women Back to Work in the Post-Pandemic World

An unprecedented change is observed in the employment status of employees in the post-pandemic times across the world. But for a developing nation like India, the stakes are higher. People have lost their jobs in the pandemic phase due to lay-offs which contributed to reduced income and increased economic instability. However, when we zoom in to the picture of recovery of jobs based on gender, women have been hit harder than men in bringing women back to work as post-pandemic job recovery for women has been far more challenging than their male counterpart.

The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) computes that women’s unemployment in India was at a staggering 9.7% in January 2021, in stark contrast to the 6.3% unemployment rate for men during the same period. Women’s labour force participation rate (LFPR), which was already low in India at 23.4% in 2019, has further declined to 16.1% in January 2021. Additionally, the unemployment rate among females from rural regions increased by 1.6% in contrast to 1.2% unemployment rate among males from rural regions. The statistics indicate that bringing women back to work is becoming a challenge since many women could not recover their jobs in the post-pandemic phase, while other women chose not to recover their jobs for certain reasons.

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Causes of slow or less post-pandemic job recovery of women as compared to men

  • Workspace gender disparity: Gender disparity is not a new thing in India. Prior to the pandemic phase as well this phenomenon’s tentacles spread far and wide. There was prejudice against women in terms of lower wages, limited access to education, lesser access to training in the workplace, etc. The pandemic after-effects were such that bringing women back to work has become tough due to loss of jobs and reduced opportunities for women.
  • Household responsibilities: In Indian households, women have been the primary caretakers and caregivers. The pandemic led to closure of schools and care-centres which led to women taking up most of the work at home like taking care of the children and the elderly, taking care of household chores, and others. This aspect has significantly added to the stress and burnout of women and bringing women back to work is becoming more of a dream than reality.
  • Hiring process discrimination: Although this discrimination has always existed, women are now being told-off by the management and hiring officials by citing absurd reasons as biological aspects like menstruation pain and childbirth phases bringing down the productivity of organisations. Women are also asked how they would manage both household responsibilities and work on the office front. This discrimination has kept the job recovery of women low.
  • Access to technology: Bringing women back to work will need women to be technologically-intelligent which is lacking due to less exposure and training in women. A lot of work has shifted to virtual and remote work, which requires the employees to have a smartphone, laptop or computer, knowledge to use certain tools and software to stay connected. But as statistics show, only 33% women own a smartphone in stark contrast to 71% of their male counterparts owning a smartphone. There is a huge gap between male and female in this aspect too.
  • Limited government support: The Indian government introduced a number of initiatives to support job creation and recovery, such as “Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan” and “Garib Kalyan Rojgar Abhiyan.” However, these initiatives have largely ignored the need of the hour to bring women back to work, with limited provisions for women’s employment and training.

Now that we have seen the primary causes for bringing women back to work being slow, let us meditate on some possible changes that could solve the causes.

Solutions for bringing women back to work

  • Women entrepreneurship: Women need to be encouraged to set up businesses on their own, according to their taste or preference. But the government has to intervene here by providing training schemes, capital, and education to the women-centric population so that we can bring women back to work. Companies should be given incentives for promoting and hiring women-owned businesses.
  • A gender-diverse workforce: Organisations need to take a step to ensure a gender-diverse work culture for their own benefit, so that a lot more can be brought to the table In terms of productivity, innovation, ideas, and creativity. They need to draft schemes for equal work pay, to provide training to women, flexible work arrangements, and anti-discrimination policies.
  • Addressing the digital knowledge gap: As women are lagging behind in the digital knowledge field, measures must be taken to educate them and let them work hands-on in the digital space. We all learn from zero, this can be made possible through cooperative government and organisation policies. The digital divide must be dismantled in order to bring women back to work.
  • Support for working mothers: Paid parental leave, childcare support policies, part-time and freelancing options—these measures must be taken in order to enable and help to bring women back to work.
  • Safety of women: Ensuring safety of women is also paramount in bringing women back to work.

As we are in the third pandemic year, it is very important to streamline organisation and government policies to help women come back to work in order to set up a more vitalized and balanced workforce in the developing nation of India.

Reference: “Post-pandemic job recovery for Indian women slower than men: Report,” Business Standard, February 22 (2023)

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