Women are marginally more likely than men to be in non-regular employment and those most likely to lose their work and incomes are casual workers and the self-employed, observed International Labour Organisation (ILO) in its document assessing the Covid-19 impact on employment in India.
The document titled ‘ Rapid Assessment of the Impact of the Covid-19 crisis on Employment’ states that around three-quarters of employment in India is non-regular – either self-employed or casual workers.
In 2017-18, 85 per cent of workers were in the informal sector and a further 5 per cent were employed in the formal sector but under informal conditions, they lacked social protection or other employment-related benefits. “There are also many gender disparities: women are less likely than men to participate in the labour force and young women have a higher unemployment rate than young men” ILO stated.
India has one of the world’s lowest rates of female labour force participation, which declined from 32.2 per cent in 2005 to 20.8 per cent in 2018. The largest decline occurred in rural areas where the female labour force participation rate dropped from 36.7 per cent in 2005 to 21.6 per cent in 2018.
In 2017-18, there were an estimated 4.9 million domestic workers, classified as regular but unprotected. Around two-thirds were women. These workers are vulnerable to second-round effects when households facing losses can no longer employ them. The most vulnerable are those who do not live on the premises.
According to the ILO a prolonged economic downturn, both global and national, will lead to a substantial increase in unemployment, underemployment and working poverty, and declines in labour income and enterprises’ profit and competitiveness.
“In the lockdown, daily wages of women have been stopped and they are in dire needs especially those running their own households. Besides, women also form the frontline in the health sector and as community workers. They need protection. Women do most of the housework or unpaid work in the home which requires amenities like water and cooking gas” observed women’s and civil society organisations in Maharashtra demanding government’s intervention.