The 'Mind The Gap - State of Employment in India' report points out that decline in rural jobs, transforming urban areas, unequal pay, the burden of unpaid care work, and the continuing prevalence of regressive social norms are factors underlying women's low participation in the workforce. The report highlights that on an average, women are paid 34 per cent less than similarly qualified male workers for performing the same tasks and the urban women's work is sectorally concentrated - 10 industries make up over half of female employment; education sector accounts for over one in seven urban women workers. In 2015, 92 per cent of women and 82 per cent of men were earning a monthly wage less than Rs 10,000, far below the Seventh Central Pay Commission (2013) recommendation of Rs 18,000 per month. It also points out that declining Female Labour Force Participation Rate (FLFPR) is caused by both demand and supply side challenges. Decreasing demand for farm work, relatively low employment demand from sectors that are more likely to employ women (e.g. garments), lower likelihood of working women in richer households, occupational segregation, and to some extent in rural areas, older or only daughters pursuing higher education etc. have been highlighted.
The report examines the role of labour legislation in furthering job insecurity among workers and analyses the social security framework for workers that exposes the precariousness for certain groups. It draws attention to increasing informalisation in formal manufacturing through the rise of contractual labour and wage differences between regular workers and managers. Finally, it assesses caste realities in stigmatised occupations.
"Despite the rhetoric of job creation and ensuring gender justice, the reality is sobering on the ground. The report draws particular attention to women being left out of the economic growth narrative. It shows that women's participation is low due to decline in rural jobs, transforming urban areas, unequal pay, the burden of unpaid care work, and the continuing prevalence of regressive social norms. And this is a consequence of poor policy choices and lack of investment in social security and infrastructure," Oxfam India CEO Amitabh Behar said.
The report also assesses the role social identities such as caste and class play in determining employment for men and women. Specifically, in stigmatised vocations such as sanitation, rag-picking and jobs in the leather industry.
"In the last few years, we have heard statements and promises on providing employment and generating jobs. However, the focus has never been on delivering quality jobs. We need a labour market where people are adequately remunerated for their skills and provided social protection to access quality education and healthcare. This can help uplift families out of the cycle of poverty," said Ranu Bhogal, Director of Policy Research and Campaigns at Oxfam India.
Oxfam India has called for a shift in the government's focus towards labour intensive sectors to create more jobs, It also sought substantially higher investments in health and education to improve productivity and also as these sectors could be large employment generators in the future.
"To create a gender just society and to ensure equal and dignified opportunities for all, we will need to overcome the gender blindness in our perspectives. We must make the right policy choices. The formal social security system in India is accessible to only a small percentage of workers and this access is extremely inequitable across sex, social group, religion, and economic class, mirroring labour market outcomes. This inequality can be addressed both through appropriate labour policy instruments and by an expansion of social security among uncovered workers," Behar said.