The pandemic and the plight of working Women

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There is a lot of negative impact on both-the work of women and working women!

By: Priyanka Saurabh

The coronavirus pandemic has had a very negative impact on women’s work as well as the working women. The case is more profound in single women, widows, daily wage laborers, or women working in the unorganized sector who haven’t got any protection under social security laws.

We live in a male dominated society and women here are generally supposed to maintain the house, cook, clean, wash and babysit. However, now in the case of working couples this thinking is slightly changing. But still, this mentality works in most families. As a result, most of the women in this long lockdown are forced to bear the burden of work.

Indian women work, on average, for about six hours extra per day than in other countries, for which they do not get any extra benefits. Whereas Indian men spend less than an hour in such works and have more status compared to their men in other countries.

The Covid-19 lockdown has virtually reduced employment availability for women and increased the workload of care. With all family members at home, the tasks of cooking, caring for children, cleaning, babysitting and caring for the elderly has added more work load to women and, in my view, there is no doubt that the management of household tasks and low-income status will have long-term effects on the physical and mental health of women. The already high level of malnutrition among rural women is also likely to increase, as the amount of food in households is decreasing as well as women are under more pressure than men during the lockdown.

Recently United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has also stated that the ever-increasing infection of the coronavirus (Covid-19) in the world has adversely affected the social and economic status of women due to which social inequality towards them has increased considerably. He said that due to this pandemic, the health of women, their economic condition, and social security has been badly affected as well as violence against women has also increased considerably.

Today, due to Corona, rural women have to face the crisis of regular employment more than before. According to a survey, job losses during epidemic times have been larger for rural women than men. Women are not reported as laborers anyway and this crisis of regular employment may have intensified during the epidemic and the lockout.

Younger and more educated women often aspire for skilled, non-agricultural work, rather than looking for small work, while older women are more inclined to do household chores. Therefore, the discussion of their work does not become the headlines of the economy. Data shows that 71% of women have lost their jobs after lockdown. And the salary of women is not equal to the salary of men who are doing jobs.

Women are engaged in agricultural work in a large part of the country where rain-fed agriculture is prevalent and this time in the months between March to May no agricultural work was done. Employment and income in agriculture-related activities, such as animal husbandry, fisheries, and floriculture were also adversely affected by the lockout. Non-agricultural employment came to a sudden halt due to the complete closure of construction sites, brick kilns, petty stores and eateries, local factories and other enterprises.

We need to properly highlight the contribution of women to the picture of the labour market and emphasize generating women-specific employment. There is undoubtedly a present need to generate women-specific employment in long-term plans and new ventures. Special attention should be paid to safe and easy transportation for women from their homes to workplaces. Due to its lack, young and old women are still at home even after the lock-down has been removed.

Government schemes have come from new sources of women’s employment in the last few decades, particularly in the health and education sectors, for example, where women work as Anganwadi workers or mid-day meal cooks. During the epidemic, recognized social health workers or ASHAs, 90% of whom are women, have become frontline health workers and have proven themselves. Now we need to include women from almost all sections of rural families.

Also, there is a need to generate women-specific employment in skilled occupations of women and in new ventures. Apart from the health sector in the country, women play an important role at the grassroots level in all other areas, all of them should be recognized as laborers and should be paid fair and equal wages as men. In the self-reliant Bharat Abhiyan and schemes related to Corona, women alone, widows, daily laborers, or women working in the unorganized sector have not received any special package or protection under social security laws.

Today, they face more work and a double financial crisis. Anyway, the historical fact is that in the crisis of war or divine disasters, women have faced the most problems. But Corona is proving heavy on all disasters. Today, because of this, no woman is safe in the village and cities – housewives or working. In such a serious situation, the Government of India and the State Governments should pay maximum attention to the health and safety of this half of the population as well as financial problems. Social and economic policies should be made keeping the future of women at the center, which will result in better results.

The writer is a Research Scholar in Political Science, University of Delhi, Poet, Independent Journalist, Columnist, Radio and TV Panellist.


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