November 22, 2023
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we discuss whether night shifts can bring more women into the workforce. We also look at the global recognition in tourism for Kerala, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Can night shifts bring more women into the workforce?
None of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will be achieved unless there’s greater equality between women and men. This begins right from birth and goes through healthcare, education, and employment. That final part, employment, is one that countries have struggled with – ensuring more women are given opportunities to participate in the labour force and the economy. India is no different.
Being a country of over a billion, India has unique challenges but is also uniquely positioned to work on this front. We have a large service sector that employs lakhs of people. We’ve also become, in many ways, the world’s support staff, working round the clock. That means people working during the day and also all night. Is there an opportunity here to bring more women into the workforce? Is it the right approach?
A recent poll from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and Gallup showed that 70% of the women surveyed preferred to work in paid jobs, regardless of their employment status. Over the past three decades, women’s participation in the workforce has remained stagnant. In South Asia, it has declined. There’s also the wage gap – for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes 77 cents.
There’s only an upside here. Some research has shown that countries can increase their GDP by 20% and gain a 14% increase in wealth, on average, if women were employed and paid as much as men.
Why does this happen in the first place? It’s a supply and demand-side issue. On the supply side, women face gender differences in technical skills, limited mobility options, and time constraints due to household and care responsibilities. On the demand side, it’s gender gaps, discrimination in hiring and retention, a lack of childcare benefits, and a mismatch in education.
In India, some estimates state there are over 430 million working-age women. Out of this, over 340 million are employed in the unorganised sector. A McKinsey study showed that by offering equal opportunities to women, India can add $770 billion to its GDP by 2025.
The pandemic had a profoundly negative impact on women’s participation in the workforce. India’s gender gap widened by 4.3% as there were fewer economic opportunities for Indian women. The informal labour market was arguably the hardest hit. The way to boost women’s economic empowerment isn’t just by increasing employment opportunities. We need investment in public-sector care infrastructure. If India invests 2% of the GDP in the care economy, it could generate millions of jobs.
Let’s focus on increasing employment opportunities for now. One thing India does have going for it is its service sector and IT hub. The IT boom has benefitted the economy and resulted in a large talent pool for companies to choose from. Global Capacity Centres are a $46 billion business that employs over 1.7 million people in India. This helps India’s tech industry remain competitive amid global upheaval.
Over a decade ago, research commissioned by the National Commission for Women (NCW) showed that women working night shifts in the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector constituted over 40% of the sector’s workforce. When the Factories Act was amended, it allowed women to work night shifts between 10 pm and 6 am.
Can improving the night shift economy help increase women’s participation in the workforce?
VIEW: There’s an opportunity here
The night economy rarely grabs national headlines but could be the key to this issue. If companies are on the lookout to bring in more women, perhaps some legislative guidance would help. There’s good news on this front. Earlier this year, Labour Minister Raaj Kumar approved the Draft Occupational Safety, Health, and Working Conditions Rules, 2023. It’ll allow women to work night shifts with full security, a higher salary for overtime and travel allowance for migrant workers going to their hometowns.
Some states are following suit and see legislation as an opportunity to increase women’s labour participation. This doesn’t have to be limited to IT/ITES jobs in large metropolitan cities. Take Karnataka, for example. It passed a Bill that allowed women to work night shifts in factories – the Factories (Karnataka Amendment) Bill. The government apparently faced pressure from all corners to relax previous restrictions, including from the software industry.
The biggest concern here is safety. What pieces of legislation have done is set out a list of conditions that companies must adhere to if they’re going to employ women in night shifts. This covers everything from CCTV cameras on the premises to transportation facilities. With night shifts and including women, there’s a sense that going the other way was discriminatory. Several courts heard appeals against the Factories Act that previously restricted women from working night shifts. If they’re capable, why not let them work?
COUNTERVIEW: Perhaps not the right approach
There’s no doubt India needs to reduce the gender gap and bring more women into the workforce. The government’s move, a few years ago, to allow women to work night shifts in factories, for example, might increase gender equality, but the jury is still out on whether it brings more women into the workforce. Policy and legislation are all well and good, but what are the tangible benefits?
In many East Asian countries, they’ve managed to increase the female labour force participation rate by increasing manufacturing jobs. In places like China and South Korea in the 20th century, women typically entered the workforce at the lower levels, at low-wage jobs. The night shift economy is relatively small in the grand scheme of things within the manufacturing and services sector.
While India was previously known as the world’s back office, that isn’t necessarily the case anymore to some. We’ve become the world’s brain. We’re a startup hub, and precious few are women-led. While some feel, by and large, that allowing night shifts might lead to equity in the job market, there’s always the added burden of societal and household responsibilities impacting long-term health. If night shifts become part of routine work or a “condition of service”, it might have the opposite intended effect.
- How to increase women’s economic participation – World Bank
- The Role of Women in India’s Economic Growth Story – CII
- Advancing women’s role in India’s economic progress – ORF
- Women & night shift economy – Hindustan Times
- Workplaces with women on night shift have to provide creche & canteen, draft labour rules say – The Print
- Karnataka: Bill passed for women to work night shift at factories – Deccan Herald
- Night shifts are not the answer to getting more women to work – Livemint
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) Night shifts can bring more women into the workforce.
b) Night shifts won’t bring more women into the workforce.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Even when it comes to matters of tribal welfare, while of course it was Birsa Munda’s life’s work, for Jawaharlal Nehru too, it was an article of faith
For the Left:
India-China War: Indian bravehearts had to pay the price for Nehru’s weak leadership
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Liquor oversight (Haryana) – Haryana Deputy Chief Minister Dushyant Chautala announced the implementation of a ‘track and trace system’ for liquor supply in the state. This system, developed as part of the Haryana excise policy 2023-24, is QR-code based and aims to regulate and monitor all activities related to liquor sales, production, and movement. Designed to capture real-time data on liquor production and supply, it also aims to safeguard government revenue. The system will be implemented across all distilleries in Haryana.
Why it matters: This initiative marks a significant step in enhancing the regulation and transparency of the liquor industry in Haryana. By implementing a sophisticated tracking system, the state government aims to prevent illegal activities and ensure compliance with tax and excise regulations. This move is expected to contribute to more efficient government oversight, potentially leading to increased revenue and a more controlled liquor market in the state.
Global recognition (Kerala) – Kerala Tourism’s Responsible Tourism (RT) Mission has been recognized by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) for successfully upholding the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in its travel industry initiatives. Kerala’s approach has been notable for utilizing local resources and products to boost RT destinations.
Why it matters: This global recognition places Kerala alongside G20 nations on the UNWTO’s list, which also includes Maharashtra for its Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve project. Additionally, the Kerala RT Mission recently received the prestigious Global Award for sustainable and women-inclusive initiatives.
Cabinet calls (Jharkhand) – The Jharkhand cabinet is considering a significant amendment to allow inspectors and sub-inspectors to investigate cases under the Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989, a role previously reserved for DSP level officers. Additionally, the cabinet plans to review a proposal to allocate ₹1.20 crore for the victims and dependents of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Bokaro.
Why it matters: These proposed changes and allocations signify Jharkhand’s effort to enhance judicial efficiency and address long-standing injustices. Empowering lower-ranking officers to investigate ST-SC cases could lead to swifter and more effective handling of these sensitive cases. The financial assistance for anti-Sikh riot victims represents a commitment to redressing historical grievances.
Solar boost (Rajasthan) – The Ministry of Power has granted authorization to POWERGRID Bhadla Transmission, a branch of the state-owned power transmission company POWERGRID, to establish overhead transmission lines in Rajasthan. These lines, part of Phase-II Part B, are intended to evacuate 8.1 GW of power from the solar energy zone.
Why it matters: The approved route, spanning approximately 36 km, will pass through various villages in Fatehgarh and Pokharan. This approval comes with specific conditions, including compliance with the Electricity Act 2003 and measures to protect the endangered Great Indian Bustard (GIB), such as potential undergrounding of lines or installing bird diverters in GIB areas.
New frog species (Arunachal Pradesh) – Biologists from the Wildlife Institute of India and the University of Wolverhampton, in collaboration with Arunachal Pradesh’s forest department, have discovered a new species of music frog, named Noa-Dihing music frog (Nidirana noadihing), in the Namdapha-Kamlang landscape. This species, characterized by a unique call pattern and a pale cream-colored line on its mid-body, was initially recorded near Gandhigram, close to the Namdapha Tiger Reserve.
Why it matters: This finding is significant as it represents the third consecutive discovery of a new amphibian species in the highly biodiverse easternmost tiger reserve of India within a year, indicating the untapped potential for further biological discoveries in the Namdapha-Kamlang landscape.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
461,312 – Road accidents in India increased to 461,312 in 2022.