Women Labor Rights - Can their workforce participation boost the economy?

Women Labor Rights – Can their workforce participation boost the economy?

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As the other part of a human being, men and women have the same mental capacity, though they have different bodily features and functions, no one has the right to infringe on the other’s fundamental rights. Over time we have unveiled a new spectrum of knowledge, opening us evolved species to modern opportunities, inventions, prejudice against the other facet of mankind – women, is utterly preposterous. There are studies explaining how our brains work differently, but none to prove one to be superior to another.

For the growth of mankind, the participation of both sexes is necessary. For thousands of years, women have been accepted working and caring in the household, with exceptions of legendary queens of history. Let’s say, Meera Bai, a revered singer, with an unparalleled beautiful voice, left her in-laws, Rani Tarabai of Maratha Bai, Rani Laxmi Bai but these brave ideologies of working, holding position by women is not welcomed by some parts of our society and looked down upon. Pre-independence era, women were uplifted since the freedom fighters believed the nation could not thrive with its women being backward. After independence, the law, and order, the Constitution recognizes and provides equal rights to women.

The Constitution acknowledges women’s right to public employment, and Article 16(1) and 16(2) of the Constitution grant us women, the right to equal opportunities in employment. Nevertheless, the actual situation is way different. Narrow-minded social norms still exist and adversely affect their decisions and elude them from leading an independent life.

 The IMF said India could be 27 times richer if the working sector included as many women as men.

Times of India reported about Bela Chawla, a Gurgaon resident who has to leave her job in a company she worked for 15 years because there was no daycare facility. The Maternity Benefits Act 1961 made it compulsory for employers to daycare and creche facilities and other maternity benefits for women According to a census from 2001-2011, only 10% of women who claimed maternity services received it. Unfortunately, the government’s plan only worked in the public sector.

According to NASSCOM’s 2018 survey, only 49% of the total firms included had a creche at their offices. India although the largest democracy, and second most populated country, has the fifth-lowest women workforce participation rate. Women’s workforce participation currently stands at 23% in 2017-18, which reduced from around 40% in 2005. This can be due to less availability of employment opportunities, fear of safety, but societal norms greatly impact their life decisions. The rural women with poor education and the shift of agriculture to manufacturing jobs are worse affected.

The Maternity Act 2016, increased maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks. This is quite helpful for women, but this has put a burden on companies to bear the expenses and duly increased the entrenched gender bias amongst the employers for hiring women. These amendments have not taken into consideration the societal norms and mindset of the people. Ireland with a great gender parity rate, gives its men and women the same paternity leave, as it is the responsibility of both parents to take care of their child. A key issue towards ensuring gender equality in the workplace is the respect of maternity rights and reproductive rights of women.

McKinsey’s gender parity report last year said that India could add $770 billion to its GDP till 2025. To achieve gender parity in the workforce, employers need to understand and respect the maternity and reproductive rights of women. “The one who constitutes almost half of the segment of our society has to be honored and treated with dignity at places where they work to earn their livelihood.”

  • By Dharna Prasad, Hindu College

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