#OxfamIndia: Women in India are paid 34% lesser than men, making it widest gender pay gap in Asia

By NL Team

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According to Oxfam India’s latest report “Mind The Gap-State of Employment in India,”—which specifically analyses India’s current state of employment from the lens of gender—India ranks #1 across Asia for having the widest gender wage gap. The report based its estimates on the employment-unemployment survey (EUS) 2011-12 done by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO) and International Labour Organization (ILO) studies.

In India, women are paid 34 per cent lesser than men in the country for performing the same job with the same qualifications. Women’s labour force participation in India is one of the lowest in the world; they comprise half of the Indian population but make up less than a quarter of its labour force. Three out of every four Indian women do not work in the country. Although inequality in jobs has increased, inequality in education has decreased between boys and girls. “But this situation further exacerbates the crisis in jobs when it comes to women.”

Almost all girls in India go to a primary school and 70 per cent of girls between the age of 15 to 18 years are enrolled in school. According to the report, they (girls) even more often than not outperform boys in secondary and senior secondary examinations. However, they are unable to find jobs for the skills that they have.

The report points to the economic and structural reasons behind the high unemployment rate among Indian women. Women drop out of the labour force due to the high border of unpaid care work in households “which is overwhelmingly a female responsibility”. This, clubbed with social barriers that restrain the free movement of women outside the house, creates an environment that prevents them from engaging in paid labour. There is also a social constraint on women owning land; although a vast number of women are engaged in farming activities across rural India, the ownership and control over land and income from it is controlled by men.

In India, only 5 per cent of women in India had exercised their choice in deciding who to marry, states the report. Young Indian men who have passed their Class 10 or 12 manage to find jobs as mechanics, drivers, sales representatives, postmen and appliance repairmen—barely any of these opportunities are available to women. Employment for women is primarily available in the farming sector as labourers, or as manual labourers in the non-farm construction sector. However, these have little appeal for girls who possess secondary or higher-secondary qualifications.

While analysing the gender pay gaps in the organised sector across different occupations, Oxfam says that women professionals—even in the highest ranks of labour—such as legislators, senior officials, and managers, are paid less compared to their male counterparts. However, these women constitute only one per cent of the total female workforce.

Coming to jobs—which Oxfam stated had been adversely affected after demonetisation and had women the most—the report observed that at the end of the first two decades of this millennium, what we see in India is that despite high growth rates, jobs remain a huge challenge for the country. Even though the services sector accounts for more than half of India’s GDP, it does not make a significant contribution in employment generation. In fact, between 2011-12 and 2016, net annual addition to regular jobs slowed down to roughly 1.5 million.

The State of Working in India 2018 (SWI 2018, henceforth) cited in the Oxfam report has also highlighted some glaring facts about the caste-based wage gap. It states that caste-based earnings gap is larger than the gender earnings gap. In 2015, the SCs, STs and OBCs earn only 56 per cent, 55 per cent and 72 per cent respectively of upper caste earnings. The share of land owned in rural India by different social groups was13.06 per cent for STs, 9.23 per cent for SCs, 45.68 per cent for OBCs and 32.03 per cent for others (NSSO 2013). In livestock and farm equipment, the share of SCs is 11.7 per cent, 43.8 per cent for OBCs, 25.5 per cent for High Castes and 18.9 per cent for the rest.