Today, about 60% of Indian women between 15-59 years of age are not employed in any capacity (according to Economic Survey 2019-20) and are engaged in full-time household work. Both informal and formal sectors see an unprecedented rate of dropouts or no participation at all.
The latest data available from the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) report shows that there is a decline in women participation in the workforce or labour force since 1993 and continues in 2017-2018. Research by the World Bank shows a similar dip.
Inadequacy of opportunities, employment practices and skills among women and a significant gender pay gap are the key reasons with other primary reasons being unsupportive social structure, prejudiced norms, unfavourable working conditions for the decline in women’s participation in the workforce.
India has one of the lowest female participation and ranks 145 among 153 countries according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020 by the World Economic Forum and India ranks 108 in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) gender gap index in 2018, which is the same rank it held in 2017. A preliminary IANS-CVoter Economy Battery survey revealed that Indian women have already lost more jobs than men during the COVID-19 pandemic, pointing towards a massive problem. Apart from the gender pay gap, India is also facing a huge pay disparity among the categories of organized and unorganized sectors, rural and urban areas, and regular and casual workers.
According to the Consumer Pyramids Household Survey 2018 conducted by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), the average income of women in India is 43% lower as compared to that of men. The income gap for individuals working in the Information Technology (IT) sector is significantly lower at 12.6%. This infers that women working in ICT sectors like IT and Telecom face a critical pay gap issue and lack of skill development.
The absence of half of the potential talent due to intrinsic exclusion, social barriers, and inadequacy in providing opportunities is a disservice to our nation if we are on a path to be a multi-trillion-dollar economy. The Telecom Sector has been the backbone of the Indian Economy, and yet there is an average of 8-15% of the female workforce, lower than 26.6% of overall female participation in the total workforce. Telecom Sector in India is growing exponentially, being the second-largest telecom market in the world, yet the low participation of women is a concern. This begs an immediate intervention for positive policies, better working infrastructures and a very progressive skilling ecosystem.
Despite the disparity, we have seen a positive impact on female participation in the Telecom sector due to the development of the Internet. With “Digital India” being a key focus of our Government and industry, fibre infrastructure and the Internet is reaching even in the remotest parts of India, giving access to skills and opportunities to women. The Internet has played a major role during the pandemic, facilitating e-Learning for skill development, and making work from home a possibility. This has been turned advantageous for women who aspire to skill themselves or prefer flexible working hours.
Industry 4.0 is now taking shape and new emerging technologies such as 5G, Cloud, IoT etc. are paving the way for more opportunities for women. All the stakeholders in Telecom are focusing immensely on making the sector gender inclusive. For instance, Vodafone hires from all levels of education at every circle and 50-60% of the recruits are women.
Similarly, Idea Cellular Ltd, Reliance Communications Ltd, Ericsson, Tata Teleservices Ltd It is forming engagement practices with a healthier working environment. Promoting diversity also incentivizes search partners hiring women who bring diverse skill sets and perspectives. In the skilling landscape, all the involved stakeholders – Government, Industry, training associations, academia etc. are aiming at up-skilling or re-skilling women in ICT based technologies and job roles with initiatives such as CSR, job fairs, skill development schemes, exclusive training centres and more, all focusing on women.
I believe that women and men must have the same opportunities, and have the same access to skilling, vocational education, and employment opportunities. Our Prime Minister’s vision of “Atmanirbhar Bharat” will not succeed unless we embrace skill development and financial independence for women.
This Woman’s day, we all should strive to build a nurturing ecosystem and invest in skilling to ensure employment opportunities for women in both urban and rural areas by forming positive policies, developing vocational education and skilling schemes to bridge the pay gap followed by increasing retention.
Telecom Sector Skill Council is proud to be a part of Skill India Mission and an allied partner to National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) as it has established several Government’s flagship schemes like Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) which is committed to providing women with a diverse range of market-relevant skills in the fields of Telecom, Electronics, AI, Healthcare, Beauty, Wellness, Data Analysis, Business among many.
It also ensures them with a healthy working environment and scope to have a promising career and future, establishing confidence among women and opportunities to achieve their dreams.