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Employment of women in bartending - State-wise analysis of legal barriers

ByHindustan Times
Jul 27, 2023 11:47 AM IST

This article is authored by Shruthi N Nair, Associate, Research and Strategic Relations, CPPR.

Women across the world still have difficulty finding employment and obtaining equal access to the global workforce. Legal barriers to the employment of women have been one of the biggest reasons why women are less likely to enter the labour force. Across many countries, the labour force participation gap is stark. Countries like India, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt, Iran, etc. have a gap higher than 45 percentage points between male and female participation rates. According to the Periodic Labour Force Survey by the Government of India, across rural and urban workers, the labour force participation percentage is 25.1% for women as compared to 57.5% for men (Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation 2022). The gap is even wider according to International Labour Organisation Statistics, where the data shows that only 19.2% of women are in the labour force, compared to 70.1% of men in the workforce, making the gap critical (International Labour Organization 2022). Keeping women from participating in the workforce can significantly impact a woman’s ability to have economic freedom and access key social security benefits, and it has been estimated that allowing full access to women can add $12-28 trillion to GDP across the globe (McKinsey Global Institute 2015). These legal barriers can be restrictions or regulations on women owning, working in, or managing businesses, or additional factors that can be a barrier to entry into the workplace, like a lack of support policies for women.

Women in bartending(Brews and Spirits)

In India, there are several states that prohibit women from being employed in establishments that sell liquor. State laws prevent women from working in any capacity as servers or bartenders in establishments that have been licenced to sell liquor. The wide import of provisions like this means a larger barrier for women to enter the hospitality field. A Supreme Court verdict (Anuj Garg v Hotel Association of India and Ors 2007) had struck down Section 30 of the Punjab Excise Act, proposing laws like these to be unconstitutional. Despite that, they continue to exist, as each state has its own excise laws and the power to govern liquor production, sale, and transport within their corresponding excise Acts. Other than excise law provisions, there may be other legislation that poses legal barriers to women in the alco-beverage industry. For example, there are states that have time restrictions, stopping women from working beyond a certain time. Maharashtra has a time restriction until 21:30 hours for women working in foreign liquor-licenced establishments, post which women cannot work (Regulation of Employment by Licence Holder Rules 1996).

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Maps 1.1 and 1.2 show the status of various provisions restricting women in each state and the number of states where there are any excise provisions that need permission from the Commissioner of Excise to allow women to work in licenced establishments. The provisions are divided into country liquor, which is any liquor usually produced indigenously and usually differs from state to state, and foreign liquor. These two subgroups are often governed by their own provisions. There are also some states that require permission from the Commissioner in order to allow a woman to work there.

Map 1.1
Map 1.2
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Many state governments tend to include provisions that prohibit women from working in licenced establishments. States and Union Territories like Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, West Bengal, and Uttarakhand completely restrict women from working in any liquor-licenced establishments. In some cases, the wording of the provision excludes women from working in any capacity within licenced establishments. While most states restrict women from working in country liquor establishments, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh allow women in such establishments but require permission for foreign liquor establishments.

State governments tend to operate under the assumption that drinking establishments are fundamentally unsafe places for women. Instead of focusing on initiatives that create safer public spaces for women, the provisions tend to focus on making choices on behalf of women in order to keep them out of these places.

The liquor and hospitality industries are projected to increase in the coming years, even despite the COVID outbreak (Care Ratings 2021). The global revenue from the alcoholic drinks market was around $1.6 trillion and is set to increase in the coming years to a projected $1.9 trillion in 2027 (Statista 2021). The alco-beverages industry has created almost 1.5 million jobs in India. The sale revenue from this market in 2019 was around $4.8 billion (ICRIER and PLR Chambers 2021). It is a growing sector in the market where more jobs continue to be created. It is unfair to keep women out of entering the field of hospitality, as it can lead to significant economic disadvantage and keep a huge part of the workforce away from this sector.

The share of people consuming alcohol has also steadily increased in India. The share of the upper-middle-income group category consuming alcohol has increased to 21% and is set to increase to 44% by 2030. As more money comes into this industry, employment in this sector becomes far more lucrative and can provide a means of livelihood for many people.

There are now many establishments across the country that offer “Bartending and Mixology” as a course for people to be trained in. The occupation of bartending is not an unskilled job; it requires careful training and precision. In many places, these courses are an upskill that can help people find more lucrative careers in mixology and bartending. The idea that alcohol mixing is a very basic job is a regressive notion that comes from past ideas of modesty. Women who train in these courses are forced to take up jobs in only those states that allow women to bartend. Article 19(1)(g) guarantees the fundamental right to practice and profess any trade or occupation in the country. Even in Anuj Garg v Hotel Association of India and Ors 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that such a provision constitutes an infringement on the fundamental right to equality and freedom of a woman.

Considering the legal precedent set by the Supreme Court that highlights the infringement of fundamental rights of freedom and inequality, it is crucial for the states to reevaluate stringent provisions that limit women’s freedom to work in the liquor-serving industry.

This article is authored by Shruthi N Nair, Associate, Research and Strategic Relations, CPPR.

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