The greater, insidious crime against women

Crime against women is usually understood to comprise rape, female infanticide, dowry-related harassment, honour killings and other similar overt forms of violence. But, a greater crime against women is the systematic discrimination against them in jobs. It is a greater crime because of its insidious nature. It is a greater crime as is evident in the numbers.

Women do not participate in the labour force like men do in India. Labour participation rate for women was 14.4 per cent during September-December 2016. This is just one-fifth of the 74.2 per cent rate for men.

Why do women not join the workforce? The disparity in education isn't as much. About 8.5 per cent men are graduates and 5 per cent women are graduates; 5.6 per cent women cleared their twelfth exams but did not complete graduation, compared to 8.3 per cent men. The difference in education levels is about 1.6 times, while the difference in labour participation is over 5 times.

The low labour participation runs across rural and urban regions. Labour participation in rural India was 14.6 per cent and urban participation was lesser at 14.2 per cent. Urban women are better educated than their rural counterparts, but that makes no difference to their labour participation.

Reasons like women need to do household work and take care of children, etc. are not exactly fair. Besides, I think these reasons are flawed.

Women suffer a higher unemployment rate. During September-December 2016, women faced an unemployment rate of 18.9 per cent compared to the 4.7 per cent unemployment rate for men.

So, compared to men, first, fewer women join the labour force looking for jobs and then, of the few that do, fewer get jobs (compared to men).

I believe that it is this high unemployment rate faced by women that deters them from joining the labour force. The low labour participation rate for women is the outcome of a high unemployment rate. If women face a substantially higher unemployment rate compared to men, they would rather accept the traditional position of a home-maker than face the humiliation of repeated rejects in the job markets.

But, why should women face a much higher unemployment rate compared to what their relative education levels would warrant? Perhaps, the most credible answer is -- discrimination. Entrepreneurs prefer hiring men compared to women. It is hard to believe that women are systematically substantially worse at work compared to men. The only answer is discrimination. Women are seen as a greater liability. Their vulnerabilities are perceived to impose a higher cost towards ensuring their security. Instead of making space to enable all genders to work harmoniously (as they should), entrepreneurs choose the easier path of not hiring women if they can hire men instead.

The Indian Parliament has just made it much more difficult for women to join the labour force. Entrepreneurs, who have already displayed their discrimination against women are now even more unlikely to hire women because it just became much more costly to do so after lawmakers decided to increase maternity leaves and to make it mandatory for companies to maintain a creche, etc. If good intentions lead to bad outcomes, this, perhaps will be the best example.

What women need is more jobs and less discrimination. The new law will yield the exact opposite.

Women are discriminated against and are also the most vulnerable. They are the first to suffer the results of an economic shock. During September-December 2016 (the period of the initial shock of demonetisation), women lost 2.2 million jobs while men gained 5.6 million jobs. The new law is just another shock -- a more enduring one and therefore a much more harmful one.

I repeat the statistics for comparisons: only 14 per cent of women join the labour force and they suffer 19 per cent unemployment while 74 per cent men join the labour force and suffer less than 5 per cent unemployment.

As against this, women who are victims of some kind of violence against them constitute 0.04 per cent of their numbers. Violence is just too stark, too TRP friendly and so it gets a lot of attention in the media. But the crime of discrimination is much worse because it is much greater, it attracts no attention and it has no recourse. It is also ill understood as is evident in the counterproductive laws we pass that could very well increase this crime.


Sentiment gauge


Unemployment gauge

Business Standard brings you CMIE’s Consumer Sentiments Index and Unemployment Rate, the only weekly estimates of such data. The sample size is bigger than that surveyed by the National Sample Survey Organisation. To read earlier reports on the weekly numbers, click on the dates:

November 21November 28December 4,

Consumer sentiment indices and unemployment rate are generated from CMIE's Consumer Pyramids survey machinery. The weekly estimates are based on a sample size of about 6,500 households and about 17,000 individuals who are more than 14 years of age. The sample changes every week but repeats after 16 weeks with a scheduled replenishment and enhancement every year. The overall sample size run over a wave of 16 weeks is 158,624 households. The sample design is of multi-stratrification to select primary sampling units and simple random selection of the ultimate sampling units, which are the households.

The Consumer Sentiment index is based on responses to five questions on the lines of the Surveys of Consumers conducted by University of Michigan in the US. The five questions seek a household's views on its well-being compared to a year earlier, its expectation of its well-being a year later, its view regarding the economic conditions in the coming one year, its view regarding the general trend of the economy over the next five years, and finally its view whether this is a good time to buy consumer durables.

The unemployment rate is computed on a current daily basis. A person is considered unemployed if she states that she is unemployed, is willing to work and is actively looking for a job. Labour force is the sum of all unemployed and employed persons above the age of 14 years. The unemployment rate is the ratio of the unemployed to the total labour force.

All estimations are made using Thomas Lumley's R package, survey. For full details on methodology, please visit CMIE India Unemployment data and CMIE India Consumer Sentiment.

The creation of these indices and their public dissemination is supported by BSE. University of Michigan is a partner in the creation of the consumer sentiment indices.

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