Actions will need to address affordability of phones and computers, female digital literacy and its social context and inadequate technical content dedicated to women and girls (HT File Photo)
Actions will need to address affordability of phones and computers, female digital literacy and its social context and inadequate technical content dedicated to women and girls (HT File Photo)

Enhancing women’s employment is key to economic recovery

Recovery efforts cannot be gender-blind, because, as the saying goes, “gender-blind is not gender-neutral.” There are four areas where government policy can help ameliorate long-standing issues.
By Sanjay Kathuria
UPDATED ON JAN 19, 2021 06:19 AM IST

In 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, female labour force participation in India and South Asia was 20.5% and 23.5%, respectively (ILO estimates, World Bank database). Comparable estimates for males were 76% and 77%, respectively. The Middle East and North Africa are the only regions with lower female participation than South Asia.

The pandemic has made this situation worse. It has hit women disproportionately — because they work in sectors that have been the hardest hit; work more than men do in the informal economy; or because they are the primary caregivers at home.

Owing to Covid-19, global female employment is 19% more at risk than male employment (ILO estimates). For India, economist Ashwini Deshpande estimates that compared to men, women were 9.5% less likely to be employed in August 2020 compared to August 2019. Ominously, girls are at greater risk of losing their human capital — in India, there is a 30% increase in new registrations on matrimonial websites, and, in South Asia, an additional 200,000 girls are expected to be forced into child marriages this year (Lancet).

Recovery efforts cannot be gender-blind, because, as the saying goes, “gender-blind is not gender-neutral.” There are four areas where government policy can help ameliorate long-standing issues.

First, address child care-related issues, a critical barrier to women’s labour force participation. The biggest dividends will come from focusing on women in the informal sector. In India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan, 76, 89, 71 and 66% of working women, respectively, are employed on own account or as family workers (ILO). The Integrated Child Development Scheme provides some support, but it is not a full-time child care solution. The “Sangini Centres” of Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) provide full-day child care for 0-5 year olds, including nutrition, health and child care. Women using these centres report a monthly income increase of between 500-1,000. Similar centres will have to be significantly expanded. As for the formal sector, governments can mandate paternity leave on a use-it-or-lose-it basis, as one way to get men to share in infant care duties.

Second, tackle the digital divide. In India in 2019, internet users were 67% male and 33% female, and this gap is even bigger in rural areas. This divide can become a barrier for women to access critical education, health and financial services, or to achieve success in activities or sectors that are becoming more digitised. To address this, partnerships between the public and private sectors will be most effective. Actions will need to address affordability of phones and computers, female digital literacy and its social context and inadequate technical content dedicated to women and girls.

Third, in the formal sector, use the income tax system to push female labour force participation. Women have a higher elasticity of labour supply than men (their labour supply is more responsive to their take-home wages) — lower income taxes for women can incentivise their participation. In India, given the abysmally low rate of female participation, such a move will not have a significant impact on public finances. This can be compensated with a much smaller tax increase on male employees, if needed. This could help create incentives for female employment within households.

Fourth, mainstream gender-disaggregated data collection and monitoring. What is measured gets acted upon. Globally, major gaps in gendered data and the lack of trend data make it hard to monitor progress. A UN Women Initiative called “Making Every Woman and Girl Count” was launched in 2016 to help prioritise gender data, ensure regular production of quality and comparable gender statistics, and ensure that data are accessible and used to inform policy. In India, too, significant gaps in data on the girl child prevent a systematic longitudinal assessment of the lives of girls. This needs to be corrected.

The best way to “not waste the crisis” is to ensure that women come back stronger. Women in India and other parts of South Asia can become a critical part of the recovery.

Sanjay Kathuria is senior visiting fellow, Centre for Policy Research and adjunct professor, Georgetown University.

The views expressed are personal

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close
By toppling a Congress government in Puducherry, the BJP has sent a message to neighbouring Tamil Nadu, where it is contesting the assembly elections with the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, that the Congress is a greatly diminished force, and the party can be vanquished at any time. (PTI)
By toppling a Congress government in Puducherry, the BJP has sent a message to neighbouring Tamil Nadu, where it is contesting the assembly elections with the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, that the Congress is a greatly diminished force, and the party can be vanquished at any time. (PTI)

The BJP’s ruthless expansion drive

UPDATED ON FEB 25, 2021 08:00 PM IST
Puducherry is only the latest instance of the Modi-Shah playbook of expanding political power. In a sense, Puducherry is now part of a pattern of Machiavellian intrigue that has been repeated from Arunachal and Manipur to Goa, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh where a ruthlessly expansionist BJP seeks to consolidate its ascendancy by wangling either wholesale or retail defections.
Close
For China, there have always been certain issues that are core to its relationship with Myanmar. The latter is strategically important to gain access to the Indian Ocean as well as to Southeast Asia. It is economically important because of its natural resources such as timber, the hydroelectric possibilities stemming from its many large rivers, as well as oil and gas and minerals. Finally, China is committed to large-scale infrastructure projects in the country. (AFP)
For China, there have always been certain issues that are core to its relationship with Myanmar. The latter is strategically important to gain access to the Indian Ocean as well as to Southeast Asia. It is economically important because of its natural resources such as timber, the hydroelectric possibilities stemming from its many large rivers, as well as oil and gas and minerals. Finally, China is committed to large-scale infrastructure projects in the country. (AFP)

Myanmar-China ties: It’s complicated

By Manjari Chatterjee Miller
PUBLISHED ON FEB 25, 2021 07:53 PM IST
While China needs to work with Myanmar, the generals make for uneasy bedfellows in a relationship that has had a long and turbulent history.
Close
Women constitute only 14% of the 280,000 personnel in STEM in India’s research development institutions (UN data). In addition, although women’s participation in the workforce is higher at entry-level, it gradually decreases at higher research, academics and administration levels. (HTPHOTO)
Women constitute only 14% of the 280,000 personnel in STEM in India’s research development institutions (UN data). In addition, although women’s participation in the workforce is higher at entry-level, it gradually decreases at higher research, academics and administration levels. (HTPHOTO)

A gender equality framework for India’s sciences and tech disciplines

By Barbara Wickham
UPDATED ON FEB 25, 2021 07:46 PM IST
Greater gender equality in STEM is crucial, and in the larger interest of scientific progress and society. Currently, India is looking at a paradoxical situation where women are studying STEM subjects but there are not as many women in STEM careers.
Close
The BJP’s political dominance may, paradoxically in some ways, deepen social divisions (Burhaan Kinu/HT PHOTO)
The BJP’s political dominance may, paradoxically in some ways, deepen social divisions (Burhaan Kinu/HT PHOTO)

The disruptive social effects of Hindutva 2.0

PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 09:10 PM IST
It is the electoral hegemony of the BJP which can deepen the sense of betrayal among those who feel short-changed by the side effects of Hindutva 2.0
Close
The Chinese had earlier planned to build a series of 11 dams on the river, of which several are complete (REUTERS)
The Chinese had earlier planned to build a series of 11 dams on the river, of which several are complete (REUTERS)

The Brahmaputra is in danger. Delhi and Dhaka must challenge Beijing

By Sanjoy Hazarika
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 09:10 PM IST
China’s decision represents a strike at the heart of a sacred and ancient land and tampering with forces we do not fully comprehend
Close
People in custody, whether accused or convicted, must be considered a priority for the immunisation drive (Shutterstock)
People in custody, whether accused or convicted, must be considered a priority for the immunisation drive (Shutterstock)

Why India must include prisoners in its immunisation drive

By Amrita Paul
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 12:53 PM IST
Prisoners are guaranteed the right to basic health needs. As India undertakes its biggest immunisation drive, it must overcome the hurdles that exist within the system and ensure that the incarcerated are not left out
Close
An electric car charging station is positioned outside the Science Museum. (AP File Photo )
An electric car charging station is positioned outside the Science Museum. (AP File Photo )

When the fantasy of better battery science doesn’t match reality

Bloomberg
PUBLISHED ON FEB 24, 2021 06:39 AM IST
Car companies are fueling the hype and safety is an ongoing issue — we’re still a long way from the ideal solution for eco-friendly vehicles.
Close
Indian luxury goods have always been defined by their exceptional heritage value in that they were invariably handmade, using skills inherited over generations.
Indian luxury goods have always been defined by their exceptional heritage value in that they were invariably handmade, using skills inherited over generations.

Linking fashion, crafts and livelihood

By Ritu Kumar, New Delhi
UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2021 06:13 AM IST
The pandemic has resulted in reduced domestic demand, shrinking exports, and unemployment. The sector needs support.
Close
India also needs to strongly step up the projection of its most laudable climate actions and bring adaptation to focus in the climate discourse. (Amal KS/HT PHOTO)
India also needs to strongly step up the projection of its most laudable climate actions and bring adaptation to focus in the climate discourse. (Amal KS/HT PHOTO)

India will have to step up climate diplomacy

By Manjeev Singh Puri
UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2021 06:13 AM IST
Ministries in India are notorious for working in silos. Climate is an honourable exception with the ministries of environment and external affairs working together for years. These ministries need to be even stronger in partnership for more intensive engagement across the globe, including through coalitions that push Growth with Renewable Energy, Entrepreneurship and Nature (GREEN). The International Solar Alliance needs to add to this push.
Close
Farmers shouting slogans at the demonstration site during the ongoing protest against the new farm laws, Ghazipur , February 20 (ANI)
Farmers shouting slogans at the demonstration site during the ongoing protest against the new farm laws, Ghazipur , February 20 (ANI)

India can’t lose out on this window of economic reforms

By Gopal Krishna Agarwal
UPDATED ON FEB 24, 2021 06:14 AM IST
The government is not inclined to repeal the farm laws. The responsibility of building the right narrative for it rests on all well-meaning citizens. It cannot be left to political class alone. Politics will be what it is with limitations in a democratic ecosystem. Let us all rise to the occasion.
Close
The effect of these laws will neither be revolutionary nor disastrous for farmers and Indian agriculture. But in this hyper-mediatised age, both sides are playing to the gallery leaving no room for genuine conversation (PTI)
The effect of these laws will neither be revolutionary nor disastrous for farmers and Indian agriculture. But in this hyper-mediatised age, both sides are playing to the gallery leaving no room for genuine conversation (PTI)

India needs a new elite compact

By Rahul Verma
PUBLISHED ON FEB 22, 2021 08:39 PM IST
No regime can govern a vast and diverse country such as India without taking social, political, and economic elites on board. PM Modi must create the space for it
Close
If the stalemate continues, there is a grave risk of the saner talking heads losing control to potentially militant elements. The farmers must not return defeated to their villages (ANI)
If the stalemate continues, there is a grave risk of the saner talking heads losing control to potentially militant elements. The farmers must not return defeated to their villages (ANI)

Punjab’s history has cautionary lessons for New Delhi, farm unions

By Vinod Sharma
PUBLISHED ON FEB 22, 2021 08:39 PM IST
Punjab’s history dictates that the effort should be to isolate and punish miscreants. Blaming everyone for the misdeeds of motley groups could foment social divides, possibly fetching the popularly discarded K-word a wider communal-political traction
Close
To enable India and its firms to be globally competitive in digital solutions and services, policies to improve infrastructure and regulatory costs or even innovation capability will not be enough (The India Today Group via Getty)
To enable India and its firms to be globally competitive in digital solutions and services, policies to improve infrastructure and regulatory costs or even innovation capability will not be enough (The India Today Group via Getty)

In a post-Covid world, a new toolkit for governments

By Amitabh Kant and Arindam Bhattacharya
PUBLISHED ON FEB 22, 2021 08:39 PM IST
Traditional supply chains do not possess all the capabilities to solve customer needs. An ecosystem of partners with different skills can do that
Close
VK Sasikala (L), who in 2017 was expelled from her leadership position in the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) party and recently released from prison after serving a four-year sentence for corruption, pays homage at the statue of AIADMK party founder M.G. Ramachandran in Chennai on February 9,(AFP)
VK Sasikala (L), who in 2017 was expelled from her leadership position in the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) party and recently released from prison after serving a four-year sentence for corruption, pays homage at the statue of AIADMK party founder M.G. Ramachandran in Chennai on February 9,(AFP)

The Sasikala factor in Tamil Nadu politics

By Venkatesha Babu, Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
PUBLISHED ON FEB 22, 2021 09:42 AM IST
  • The importance of VK Sasikala lies in the fact that while she may not be able to ensure AIADMK a victory even if she rejoins it, she can ensure its defeat if both factions go separate ways electorally.
Close
Local pollution, climate damage and new economic opportunities tied to climate and environment are all important to our national interests. India needs more, not less, engagement around environmental issues (Biplov Bhuyan/HT PHOTO)
Local pollution, climate damage and new economic opportunities tied to climate and environment are all important to our national interests. India needs more, not less, engagement around environmental issues (Biplov Bhuyan/HT PHOTO)

Give young environmentalists a voice

By Navroz K Dubash
UPDATED ON FEB 22, 2021 06:35 AM IST
India has always argued that climate is linked to development choices, livelihoods and equity. Don’t ask activists to narrow down their concerns
Close
SHARE
Story Saved
OPEN APP