Women Employment In India Sociology Essay


Indias economy has undergone a substantial transformation since the countrys independence in 1947. Agriculture now accounts for only one-third of the gross domestic product (GDP), down from 59 percent in 1950, and a wide range of modern industries and support services now exist. In spite of these changes, agriculture continues to dominate employment, employing two-thirds of all workers. India faced economic problems in the late 1980s and early 1990s that were exacerbated by the Persian Gulf Crisis. Starting in 1992, India began to implement trade liberalization measures. The economy has grown-the GDP growth rate ranged between 5 and 7 percent annually over the period and considerable progress has been made in loosening government regulations, particularly restrictions on private businesses. Different sectors of economy have different experiences about the impact of the reforms. In a country like India, productive employment is central to poverty reduction strategy and to bring about economic equality in the society. But the results of unfettered operation of market forces are not always equitable, especially in India, where some groups are likely to be subjected to disadvantage as a result of globalization. Women constitute one such vulnerable group.

Since the times immemorial, worth of the work done or services rendered by women has not been recognized. India is a multifaceted society where no generalization could apply to the entire nation’s various regional, religious, social, and economic groups. Nevertheless, certain broad circumstances in which Indian women live affect the ways they participate in the economy. Indian society is extremely hierarchical with virtually everyone ranked relative to others according to their caste (or caste-like group), class, wealth, and power. This ranking even exists in areas where it is not openly acknowledged, such as certain business settings. Though specific customs vary from region to region within the country, there are different standards of behavior for men and women that carry over into the work environment. Women are expected to be chaste and especially modest in all actions that may constrain their ability to perform in the workplace on an equal basis with men. Another related aspect of life in India is that women are generally confined to home thus restricting their mobility and face seclusion. The women face constraints beyond those already placed on them by other hierarchical practices. These cultural rules place some Indian women, particularly those of lower caste, in a paradoxical situation: when a family suffers economically, people often think that a woman should go out and work, yet at the same time the woman’s participation in employment outside the home is viewed as “slightly inappropriate, subtly wrong, and definitely dangerous to their chastity and womanly virtue”. When a family recovers from an economic crisis or attempts to improve its status, women may be kept at home as a demonstration of the family’s morality and as a symbol of its financial security. As in many other countries, working women of all segments of Indian society faces various forms of discrimination including sexual harassment. Even professional women find discrimination to be prevalent: two-thirds of the women in one study felt that they had to work harder to receive the same benefits as comparably employed men.

A section of Indian women–the elite and the upper middle class– have gained by the exposure to the global network. More women are engaged in business enterprises, in international platforms like the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and have greater career opportunities as a result of international network. Freer movement of goods and capital is helpful to this section. But most women continue to remain marginalized as they are generally employed in a chain of work and seldom allowed independent charge of her job. Sharing of responsibility at work place or taking independent decisions is still a remote possibility for them. Economic independence of women is important as it enhances their ability to take decisions and exercise freedom of choice, action. Many of the workingwomen, who control their own income, do contribute towards the economic needs of family as and when required. They often participate in discussions at their work place and their views are given due weightage before any final decision. Workingwomen do use and spend their income at their own sweet will but sometimes permission of the husband becomes necessary for the purpose. However when it comes to making investments, they often leave it to their husband or other male member of the family to invest on their behalf. Many of them do not take decision even in case of important investments, like, life insurance, national saving schemes or other tax saving investments. Workingwomen do feel concerned about the economic needs of the family but when not consulted in such matters, they regret being ignored especially when they contribute monetarily towards economic wellbeing of the family. After globalization women are able to get more jobs but the work they get is more casual in nature or is the one that men do not prefer to do or is left by them to move to higher or better jobs. Globalization has indeed raised hopes of women for a better and elevated status arising out of increased chances to work but, at the same time, it has put them in a highly contradictory situation where they have the label of economically independent paid workers but are not able to enjoy their economic liberty in real sense of the term. India is the first among countries to give women equal franchise and has a highly credible record with regard to the enactment of laws to protect and promote the interests of women, but women continue to be denied economic, social and legal rights and privileges. Though they are considered to be equal partners in progress, yet they remain subjected to repression, marginalisation and exploitation. It has been advocated by many researchers (Amartya Sen, 1990) that independent earning opportunities reduce the economic dependence of woman on men and increase her bargaining power in the family. This bargaining power depends on the nature of work she is employed in. But the income earning activities increase the workload of a woman unless the man accepts an increased share in domestic work. Since globalization is introducing technological inputs, women are being marginalized in economic activities, men traditionally being offered new scopes of learning and training. Consequently, female workers are joining the informal sector or casual labor force more than ever before. For instance, while new rice technology has given rise to higher use of female labor, the increased work-load for women is in operations that are unrecorded, and often unpaid, since these fall within the category of home production activities. The weaker sections, especially the women, are denied the physical care they deserve. There is, thus, hardly any ability for the majority of Indian women to do valuable functioning; the “capability” to choose from alternatives is conspicuous by absence.

Although most women in India work and contribute to the economy in one form or another, much of their work is not documented or accounted for in official statistics. Women plow fields and harvest crops while working on farms, women weave and make handicrafts while working in household industries, women sell food and gather wood while working in the informal sector. Additionally, women are traditionally responsible for the daily household chores (e.g., cooking, fetching water, and looking after children). Although the cultural restrictions women face are changing, women are still not as free as men to participate in the formal economy. In the past, cultural restrictions were the primary impediments to female employment now however; the shortage of jobs throughout the country contributes to low female employment as well. The Indian census divides workers into two categories: “main” and “marginal” workers. Main workers include people who worked for 6 months or more during the year, while marginal workers include those who worked for a shorter period. Many of these workers are agricultural laborers. Unpaid farm and family enterprise workers are supposed to be included in either the main worker or marginal worker category, as appropriate. Women account for a small proportion of the formal Indian labor force, even though the number of female main workers has grown faster in recent years than that of their male counterparts.

Since Indian culture hinders women’s access to jobs in stores, factories, and the public sector, the informal sector is particularly important for women. More women may be involved in undocumented or “disguised” wage work than in the formal labor force. There are estimates that over 90 percent of workingwomen are involved in the informal sector and not included in, official statistics. The informal sector includes jobs such as domestic servant, small trader, artisan, or field laborer on a family farm. Most of these jobs are unskilled and low paying and do not provide benefits to the worker. Although such jobs are supposed to be recorded in the census, undercounting is likely because the boundaries between these activities and other forms of household work done by women are often clouded thus, the actual labor force participation rate for women is likely to be higher than that which can be calculated from available data. Women working in the informal sector of India’s economy are also susceptible to critical financial risks. Particularly vulnerable are the poorest of the poor. Should they become ill, lose their job, or be unable to continue working, they and their families may fall into debt and find themselves in the depths of poverty. At risk are millions of poor who depend on the income generated by one or more women in their household. These women do not have regular salaried employment with welfare benefits like workers in the organized sector of the labor market. Female workers tend to be younger than males.

According to the 2001 census, the average age of all female workers was 33.6 compared with the male average of 36.50. As per 2011 censusthere areover 1,219,300,00 people living in India, which makes it the second most populous country in the world, following China. Women are 48.50 per cent of the general population of India. There is a gender gap at birth. For every 100 girls born, there are 112 boys born; this gap is even wider in some regions.Of all ages, the gender gap is 100 females for every 108 males.In 2009-2010, women were 26.1per cent of all rural workers, and 13.8per cent of all urban workers. As per 2011 census women are an estimated 31.20 per cent of all economically active individuals. Women earn 62per cent of men’s salary for equal work and 26.20per cent of women compared to 9.0per cent of men cited a lack of role models as a barrier to advancement. In an effort to recruit more women employees, some companies are offering 25% bonuses for female employee referrals. India ranked towards the bottom of the 134 countries, with a ranking of 113, on the 2011 Global Gender Gap Index. Indian Women received 12 weeks paid maternity leave. India has a young workforce and population. In the next ten years, with both younger people and women entering the workforce, India expects to add an additional 110 million people to its labour force. In the next 40 years, India is projected to add 424 million working-age adults.

These data are reported by local employment offices that register the number of people looking for work. The accuracy of, these data is questionable because many unemployed people may not register at these offices if there are no perceived benefits to registering. In addition, the offices operate more extensively in urban areas, thus likely undercounting unemployment in rural areas. One would expect that as cultural impediments to work decrease, younger women would be the ones entering the workforce; older women who have never worked in the formal sector are not likely to start working later in life. Throughout the economy, women tend to hold lower-level positions than men even when they have sufficient skills to perform higher-level jobs. Researchers have estimated that female agricultural laborers were usually paid 40 to 60 percent of the male wage. Even when women occupy similar positions and have similar educational levels, they earn just 80 percent of what men do, though this is better than in most developing countries. The public sector hires a greater share of women than does the private sector, but wages in the public sector are less egalitarian despite laws requiring equal pay for equal work. There is evidence that suggests that technological progress sometimes has a negative impact on women’s employment opportunities. When a new technology is introduced to automate specific manual labor, women may lose their jobs because they are often responsible for the manual duties. For instance, one village irrigated its fields through a bucket system in which women were very active. When the village replaced the manual irrigation system with a tube well irrigation system, women lost their jobs. Many other examples exist where manual tasks such as wheat grinding and weeding are replaced by wheat grinding machines, herbicides, and other modern technologies. These examples are not meant to suggest that women would be better off with the menial jobs rather they illustrate how women have been pushed out of traditional occupations. Women may not benefit from jobs created by the introduction of new technology. New jobs (e.g., wheat grinding machine operator) usually go to men, and it is even rare for women to be employed in the factories producing such equipment. National Sample Survey data exemplify this trend. Since the 1970s, total female self-employment and regular employment have been decreasing as a proportion of total employment in rural areas, while casual labor has been increasing (NSSO, 1994). Other data reinforce the conclusion that employment options for female agricultural workers have declined, and that many women seek casual work in other sectors characterized by low wages and low productivity. Other agricultural work includes workers involved with livestock, forestry, fishing and hunting, plantations, orchards, and related activities.

Even if a woman is employed, she may not have control over the money she earns, though this money often plays an important role in the maintenance of the household. In Indian culture women are expected to devote virtually all of their time, energy, and earnings to their family. Men, on the other hand, are expected to spend time and at least some of their earnings on activities outside the household. Research has shown that women contribute a higher share of their earnings to the family and are less likely to spend it on themselves. Research has suggested that as the share of the family income contributed by woman increases, so does the likelihood that she will manage this income. However, the extent to which women retain control over their own income varies from household to household and region to region. Many women still sought their husbands’ permission when they wanted to purchase something for themselves. In northern India, where more stringent cultural restrictions are in place, it is likely that few women control family finances. Conditions of working women in India have improved considerably in the recent years. Ironically, despite the improvement in their status, they still find themselves dependent on men. It is because of the fact that man in patriarchal society has always wielded economic independence and power to take decision. Since the working woman earns an independent income in the same patriarchal set-up, where the basic infrastructure of society has hardly changed, though her own role within the same structure is passing through a transitional phase, it is but natural that she would remain vulnerable to exploitation even in her economically independent state. Society perhaps yet needs to accord due recognition to women to take the lead role and women, at the same time; need to be oriented vigorously towards assuming this role in the society.

1.2. Status of Working Women in India

Tapping its rich mine of educated female talent has been an important factor in allowing India to become one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. But recently this particular dynamo has been showing signs of strain. According to “Women of Tomorrow” a recent Nielsen survey of 6,500 women across 21 different nations, Indian women are the most stressed in the world today. An overwhelming 87per cent of Indian women said they felt stressed most of the time, and 82per cent reported that they had no time to relax.

The Nielsen survey’s respondents blame the difficulty of juggling multiple roles at home and work. Career opportunities for women in “the New India” are rapidly expanding, but family expectations and social mores remain rooted in tradition.

Not surprisingly, the most stress is felt among women between 25 and 55 years of age, who are trying to balance demanding careers with obligations at home. We discovered some of these pushes and pulls in our research for our upcoming book, winning the war for talent in emerging markets: Why Women are the solution.

Traditional family structures have a disproportionate effect on Indian women, even those who are urban, college-educated professionals, and especially for those who are the first generation in their families to have a career. Indian women are pulled by demands from relatives as they attempt to conform to the paradigm of “ideal daughter,” “ideal wife,” and “ideal daughter-in-law.” Among the many interviews conducted in researching the book, it wasn’t at all rare to hear of successful professionals who woke up at 4:30 a.m. to make breakfast and lunch for children and parents-in-law, put in a full day at work, then returned home to clean up after the extended family and prepare dinner.

Ambitious women often feel they have to overcompensate at work, too, to counter ingrained preconceptions about their commitment or competence. “There’s a sense that a woman is just working until she gets married, [that] she is not a long-term resource,” said one senior finance professional. But proving their worth by putting in longer hours or volunteering for business trips – the conventional methods to further one’s career – isn’t always possible.

Despite the technological prowess of India’s engineers and outsourcing firms, the country’s basic infrastructure isn’t sophisticated enough to support telecommuting and work-from-home arrangements on a widespread basis. Furthermore, flex time is rarely an option in a workplace culture that focuses on face time rather than results, says Hema Ravichandar, human resources adviser and formerly the global head of HR at Infosys. “Even in companies which have these facilities, it is not considered the right thing to do if you are serious about going up the corporate ladder,” says Ravichandar.

These stresses have serious ramifications for India’s continued economic growth. More than half (55per cent) of the Indian women interviewed have encountered workplace bias severe enough to make them consider scaling back their career goals, reducing their ambition and engagement, or quitting altogether, feeding into the very biases they grapple with and dealing a sharp blow to the country’s demographic dividend, a key factor in India’s growth which is experiencing its own stress.

Some Indian companies are taking steps to help these stressed women. For example, Infosys, the Bangalore-based info-tech powerhouse, offers the Infosys Women’s Inclusivity Network (IWIN). IWIN makes Infosys a female-friendly environment by identifying the stress points at which women tend to leave the organization and creating policies that help them deal with those stresses. Surveys showed that many Infosys women dropped out after getting married; the numbers skyrocketed after the birth of their first child and were almost universal after the second. In response, Infosys introduced a one-year “child care sabbatical” with the option of working part-time for the next two years.

Further discussions help women have a say in how their company can help their work-life balance. “Every year, we ask women, ‘What are three things you want us to do?'” to make Infosys more attractive to them and make it easier for them to do their job, says Nandita Gurjar, senior vice president and group head of human resources. “We do all of them.”

Women are critical contributors in finance, info-tech, pharmaceutical research, and other industries that are driving the growth of India Inc, Easing the stresses that prevent them from reaching their full potential at work is a smart way for companies to attract and retain key talent. Keeping women’s careers on track may not guarantee ongoing economic success but not doing so will surely limit it.

1.3 Work-Life Status of Women

Work and family life have been an integral part of a woman’s life. These two together form an integrated whole and therefore attract a lot of attention. The need to study the inter-linkages becomes all the more important with an increasing number of women entering the formal labour market. The very fact that they go out of home to work in a „public space “poses all kinds of pulls and pushes upon home life which includes their „work” to maintain home and the family. A plethora of research has been conducted to ascertain the impact of a job outside home on the home life and vice versa or to understand the relationship between the two. Research so far has been emphasizing the conflict between the home and office life of a woman as a result of employment outside the home.

1.4 Objectives

After studying this Unit you will be able to:

Describe the Quality of Life and its indicators;

Analyze the importance of Work-life Balance; and

Discuss the significance of developing the strategy to strike a balance in work and life.

1.5 Definitions

In this section we focus on definitions of work-life balance and work-family expansion.

1.6 Work-Life Balance (WLB)

Work-life balance is not a new concept. The change in the pattern of work and the concept of the workplace after the industrial revolution in the second half of the 18th century gave a new dimension to the concept of WLB. As time progressed, nuclear families increased. A later change was the fading away of the “ideal home” in which the earning member’s spouse took care of the home. With improved education and employment opportunities today, most homes are ones in which both parents work because of necessity and the desire to augment incomes. The need to create congenial conditions in which employees can balance work with their personal needs and desires became a factor that companies had to take note of both to retain them as well as to improve productivity. It was a compulsion that they could not afford to ignore. Having realized that, companies started introducing schemes to attract and retain employees and improve their productivity.

Work-life balance is the extent to which individuals are equally involved in and equally satisfied with- – their role and their family role.

In his book managing work-life balance, David Clutter buck defines work-life balance as:

being aware of different demands on time and energy;

having the ability to make choices in the allocation of time and energy;

knowing what values to apply to choices; and

making choices.

Work-Life Balance does not mean an equal balance. Trying to schedule an equal number of hours for each of various work and personal activities is usually unrewarding and unrealistic. Life is dynamic and not static. Each person’s work-life balance will vary over time, often on a daily basis. The right balance for each one today will probably be different from tomorrow.

The right balances differ when one is single and will be different when one marries or has a partner or if they have children. When one starts a new career versus when one is nearing retirement brings changes in work-life balance there is no perfect, one-size fits all, balance that one should be striving for.

1.7 Work-Family Expansion refers to the notion that: simultaneously engaging in multiple work and family roles is beneficial for the physical and mental relationship health of individuals. The quality of the roles, rather than the number of roles occupied or the amount of time spent in a particular role, determine the degree to which individuals experience the positive effects of participating in multiple roles.

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1.8 Importance of work-life balance in women’s lives

Today’s career women are continually challenged by the demands of full-time work and when the day is done at the office, they carry more of the responsibilities and commitments to home. The majority of women are working 40-45 hours per week and the majorities are struggling to achieve work-life balance. Women reported that their lives were a juggling act that included multiple responsibilities at work, heavy meeting schedules, business trips, in addition to managing the daily routine responsibilities of life and home. “Successfully achieving work-life balance will ultimately create a more satisfied workforce that contributes to productivity and success in the workplace.” Employers can facilitate WLB with many schemes that can attract women employees and satisfy their needs.

Some of the schemes are:

Facilities for child care;

Financial planning services for employees who need them;


Work sharing;

Part-time employment;

Leave plans – both paid and unpaid – to suit employee’s needs;

Subsidized food plans;

Insurance plans;

Counselling services for problems like managing work and the home;

Rest rooms, food preparation services;

Jobs with autonomy and flexibility;

Realistic workloads; and

Review of work processes to see if the burden on employees can be lightened.

(Source: http://www.indianmba.com/Occasional_Papers/OP183/op183.html)

1.9 work-life and family relationships

Edwards & Rothbard (2000) explain the relationship between work and family roles through a variety of linking mechanisms:

Work-family conflict or interference refers to simultaneous pressures from the work and family domains that are mutually incompatible in some respect such that meeting the demands of one role makes it difficult to meet the demands of the other role. Sometimes referred to as negative spill over, work-family conflict can take different forms and can originate either in the work domain or the family domain. Work-family conflict and consequent outcomes can be buffered by various coping behaviours. Some researchers have looked into how Asian women cope with these stressors, and Hall’s (1972) typology of coping provides a useful way to categorize these coping behaviours. Lo, Stone, and Ng (2003) found that the most popular strategy for coping in their sample was personal role re-definition (i.e., changing one’s own role expectation and not the expectations themselves, such as prioritizing time with children over grocery shopping [Lo et al., 2003]), followed by reactive role behaviour (i.e., assuming a rigidity of role expectations such that the person has no choice but to find ways to meet them), and finally structural role re-definition (i.e., changing the expectations imposed by an external source, such as flexible work scheduling or spousal negotiation of household roles).

Other studies have found Asian women to employ similar coping strategies. For example, Lee, Um and Kim (2004) found that married Korean women often coped by “working harder” in reaction to their role conflicts (a reactive role behaviour), which was associated with higher rates of depression compared to those who coped through other strategies such as negotiation with their spouse and prioritizing household tasks. Asian professional women may also cope reactively by lowering their career ambitions, as evidenced by an absence of women from the top levels. Ayree, Luk, Leung, and Lo (1999) framed coping behaviours in terms of emotion-focused coping (i.e. regulating distress created by the appraisal of stressors) and problem-focused coping (i.e. removing the negative impact of a stressor) and found that these efforts, in concert, positively influenced job and family satisfaction.

Several studies have also cited greater help from extended family or domestic workers in some Asian cultures, which can alleviate some of the burdens of work-family conflict. Enlisting the social support of husbands in domestic roles also helps to redefine structural roles, thus reducing work-family stress. Some studies have sought to explore the extent to which workplaces are accommodating structural role re-definition.

Unfortunately, in Asian societies, there is little dialogue between women and their employers with respect to work-family issues. This may be less true in societies with longer histories of egalitarian policies around gender and work. The following section will elaborate upon the implications for research and practice that extend to what is currently known about Asian women’s experiences with work and family.

Work – family accommodation refers to the process by which individuals reduce their involvement in one role to accommodate the demands of the other role. Work-family accommodation can be used as a strategy in response to actual or anticipated work-family conflict such that individuals reduce their involvement in a role that is less important to them. The reduction in involvement can take either of two forms: behavioral (i.e. curtailing the amount of time devoted to a role) or psychological (i.e. restricting the level of ego attachment to a particular role).

Work-life compensation refers to efforts by individuals to offset dissatisfaction in one role by seeking satisfaction in another role. These efforts can take the form of decreasing involvement in a dissatisfying role and increasing involvement in a more satisfying role. Alternately, individuals may respond to dissatisfaction in one role by pursuing rewarding or fulfilling experiences in the other role. The latter form of compensation can be either supplemental or reactive in nature. Supplemental compensation occurs when individuals shift their pursuits for rewarding experiences from a dissatisfying role to a potentially more satisfying one, e.g., individuals with little autonomy at work seek more autonomy outside of their work role. On the other hand, reactive compensation represents individual efforts to release negative experiences in one role by pursuing contrasting experiences in the other role such as engaging in leisure activities after a fatiguing day at work.

Work- family segmentation originally referred to the notion that work and family roles are independent of one another such that individuals can participate in one role without any influence on the other role. More recently, segmentation has been viewed as an international separation of work and family roles such that the thoughts, feelingsand behaviours of one role are actively suppressed from affecting the individual‟s performance in the other role.

Work-family enrichment refers to the process by which one role strengthens or enriches the quality of the other role. Work-family enrichment also refers to work-family enhancement, work-family facilitation and positive “spill over”. All these terms describe the notion that a variety of resources from work and family ro


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