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Intersectionality: Gender and Caste Dynamics in India's Labour Market

  • Published
    23rd Jan, 2024

India is a booming market, but often the details of it reveal certain trends in terms of how the societal dynamics play a role. This gets further complex w.r.t the Women and the caste realities and how they relate to the Labour Market.

  • Over the last two decades, a noticeable decline in female Labour Force Participation (LFP) has paralleled the overall reduction in workforce engagement.
  • Structural constraints within India's manufacturing and service sectors, combined with gender bias and caste discrimination, contribute to women finding themselves at the bottom of the labour pyramid.
  • This limits their employment choices, primarily directing them towards the agricultural or informal sector.

Need for Exploration:

  • While previous discussions have attempted to trace the decline in female LFP through the lens of caste, conflicting results have emerged.
  • Education's role in facilitating employment opportunities for women from higher castes contrasts with the reservation-driven choices of public sector jobs for women from lower castes.

Points of Analysis:

  • Utilizing data from the Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) 2011, analysis of labour force participation at the tehsil level.
  • The focus is on Bihar, Haryana, Maharashtra, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.
  • Women's involvement in rural informal sectors changes based on caste positions, emphasizing the influence of economic conditions and female-headed households.

Caste and Gender Bias:

  • Gender-related barriers hinder women's contribution to economic activities, with societal expectations often prioritizing housework.
  • Legal and economic constraints, such as restrictions on night shifts, further impede women's pursuit of employment.
  • However, in the non-farm, informal sector, women in female-headed households find opportunities, driven by economic necessities.
  • Caste-based biases, rooted in historical expectations, explain the higher female LFP in lower-caste households, particularly in the informal sector.

Education's Role:

  • The caste pattern in women's employment reveals lower work participation rates among upper-caste women.
  • Education plays a pivotal role, as limited opportunities confine lower-caste women to informal sector jobs.
  • Education beyond school allows entry into the formal economy, particularly through state-driven affirmative action policies.
  • Conversely, educated women from higher castes, challenging societal norms, find greater prospects in the formal sector.

Socio-Economic Impact:

  • Despite obstacles rooted in caste and gender bias, women's participation in the workforce has a positive socio-economic impact.
  • The ability to generate revenue enhances decision-making capacities for women and their families.
  • Education and employment correlate with delayed marriage and childbirth, increased child schooling, reduced domestic violence, and enhanced mobility for women.

The intersectionality of gender and caste in women's participation in the labour force emerges as a critical aspect that demands attention for shaping a progressive socio-economic landscape.

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