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Khushboo Sharma

IWB Blogger

Women Who Are Educated Are Choosing Not To Do Low-Value Jobs Anymore: Nishtha Satyam

  • IWB Post
  •  January 28, 2019

Did you know that between 2004 and 2011 (the year of the last census), 19.6 million women fell off the labour map in India? This is cutting across geography, cutting across demographics, and cutting across socio-economic lines. Among G20 nations right now, only Saudi Arabia is worse than us.

As per the economic survey of India last year, only 24% of women in India are in the workplace. The biggest irony of it all is that this drastic drop has come at a time of rising education and economic growth. Alarming statistics, right? But more importantly, why are women dropping out of work?

As Manjima Bhattacharjya, Naina Lal Kidwai, Namita Waikar, and Nishtha Satyam sat together in a conversation with Namita Bhandare at the JLF session titled Women and Work, the same question was explored with varying points of view.

Nishtha had a statistical insight into the situation. She explained, “Women who are educated are choosing not to do low-value jobs anymore. Women are making an intentional effort to not pick low-value jobs which had been the only available opportunity to them so far. So interestingly, those jobs where there were low entry barriers, women are choosing not to do.”

But why would someone who is educated choose to stay at home? Nishtha had an answer to this as well, as she explained, “In the kind of cultural economy that we have, women when they are educated, unlike men, do not take up low-value jobs, they expect decent working conditions that support their social conditions, for them to consider that as a worthwhile opportunity because otherwise the unpaid work at home kind of occupies their time.”

She added, “If we as a country were to follow an economic model where we calculate unpaid work, it would contribute to the economy as much as manufacturing, automobile or any other industry would do.”

She supported her explanation with interesting statistics, “While an urban woman spends about 300 minutes a day in handling unpaid work, an urban man spend only 29 minutes of his day on unpaid work.”

Manjima and Namita threw light on yet another problems pertaining to working women in India. While Manjima talked about the modelling industry, Namita drew an example from the agriculture sector, to show how the work that women do often goes undervalued and even mocked at in so many sectors in the country.

On being asked about the ground reality and “what is that which is holding women back from work, what is preventing their advance, and what is that one push that they need,” Naina answered, “The situation changes and depends from industry to industry but I can certainly comment on corporate India where India has advanced enormously.”

She added, “The corporate India story is advancing well. Can we do more? Absolutely, and the big missing piece in corporate India is the women who drop out of the workforce between ages 29 to maybe 53, for reasons to do typically with childbearing. So the big task here is to find out how can we bring them back when they are done with the choices they made. I think it is going to be far more important for us to focus on the India where livelihood creation brings economic worth to the women.”

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