Women & Work - All the essential updates from May 2023
News, research, data, and recommendations about women and work - curated by our team
Hello, and welcome to the May edition of CEDA’s newsletter ‘Women & Work’!
To everyone who is new here: At the Centre for Economic Data and Analysis (CEDA), we are working on an ambitious project to understand and find ways to overcome the demand-side barriers that are keeping women out of the workforce.
We are curating ‘Women & Work’ with the hope that it can provoke, stimulate and amplify conversations about women’s participation in paid work in India. You can access previous editions of this newsletter here.
Please share this edition on your social media, and with your friends, family and colleagues. Thank you!
🗞️In The News
India is considering different methodologies that could be used to quantify the contribution of household chores performed by women to the country's gross domestic product, The Economic Times reported earlier this month. The government might make the Time Use Survey a regular feature to be able to compute the amount of time women are spending on household work, the report said. Read more here.
The results for India’s highly competitive civil services examination were released this month - 34 percent of the recommended candidates this year are women, a record high for the country. Selected candidates join various administrative and bureaucratic services in the country. For added context on those numbers, read an analysis on women’s historical representation in the Indian Administrative Services here.
Kerala is planning to bring a Bill for the protection of the rights of domestic workers in the state, The Hindu reported. If it comes through, it would be the first such policy by any state in India. Find the news report here.
More than 30 women from various parts of Punjab were duped and brought to Oman on the pretext of providing jobs, The Tribune reported. The incident came to light after a video of the women pleading with authorities to rescue them went viral on social media. Find the report here.
Come 2024, and companies in Australia that have more than 100 employees will be required to publish their gender wage gap data, ABC News reported. “Expect fireworks,” the news report stated. We expect nothing less, of course! Read more here.
In the UK, companies are offering leave for menopause and miscarriage to attract women workers, a Bloomberg analysis shows. Analysing data from a job site, ‘Adzuna’, the analysis found that:
“jobs advertising time off for a lost pregnancy rocketed almost 3,000% from a year ago in March, while posts citing fertility benefits such as egg freezing and IVF treatment soared over 700%...Those citing menopause leave doubled”.
Read the analysis here.
😉 Just Saying
Do promotions impact women’s bargaining power within their households?
New research by the World Bank suggests yes.
Hannah Uckat leveraged a career promotion program in Bangladesh’s garment industry to find an answer to that question.
Two broad findings emerge:
Promotions improved women’s decision-making power at home
These effects of promotion also spilled over to women who were exposed to the new female managers: these women too report more say in household decisions.
Uckat looked at household expenditures to understand decision-making, and found that there was an increase in expenditures on assignable goods for women and girls as well as on remittances to family members who take care of the couple’s children in households of women who were promoted as part of the program.
This wasn’t simply due to an increase in income after the promotion. “The magnitudes of the effects suggest that the participation in the promotion program allowed women both to appropriate any additional income they may have earned as a result of the promotion as well as to reallocate income they would have earned in the absence of the program towards their own purposes,” Uckat writes.
Similarly, women working under new female managers also demonstrate more involvement in household decision making vis-a-vis women reporting to male supervisors. Uckat concludes:
“Viewed together, these results demonstrate that there are potential complementarities between women’s position in the workplace and in the household.
“While it will be important to replicate these results in other contexts, this study suggests that policies to promote female career advancement have the potential to address inequities in the household at the same time. Importantly, the amplifying effects of a female role model in the workplace are potentially relevant for a much larger number of women than the direct effects of promotions, which will usually only affect a small share of the female working population.”
Read the full paper here.
Colombia’s women-led electric bus fleet is reshaping Bogotá’s public transit: Bloomberg
Manipur’s Ima Keithel: The world’s largest women-run market: CNN
Women drivers steering public transport in big cities: Mint
Among the 40 million+ students enrolled in various undergraduate and postgraduate programs across India in 2020-21, 51.3 percent were men and 48.7 percent were women, the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) reports. But there were clear differences in what the men and women were studying. While undergraduate courses in nursing, education and postgraduate courses in commerce had many more women enrolled than men, B.Tech, M.Tech, and LLB had the opposite trends.
👍 CEDA Recommends
This edition’s recommendations have been curated especially for our readers by S.K. Ritadhi, Assistant Professor of Economics at Ashoka University and a member of CEDA’s advisory committee.
What’s an essential academic work that you would recommend to someone who is just getting started with working on the subject of female labour force participation?
S.K. Ritadhi: There is this really interesting experimental paper by Suresh De Mel, David Mackenzie and Chris Woodruff (2009), published in the American Journal of Applied Economics. The researchers show how returns to female entrepreneurship are lower, and women often desist from investing in their enterprise, because their husbands steal the returns. The research is based in Sri Lanka but the results apply to India too.
Anything published in the news media recently that shed light on an important aspect about women’s work in India?
I’d recommend a report published in Khabar Lahariya: ‘Status Single : The trials and triumphs of single women in small-town India’ that brings us stories of five single women from rural Uttar Pradesh and how they navigate their singlehood. (Would also recommend the work of Khabar Lahariya in general!).
Is there a film that you can recommend which, in your opinion, does a good job of portraying the world of work?
I am not a visual media person, so I haven’t watched too many films - but I would highly recommend ‘Geeli Puchhi’, a powerful short film directed by Neeraj Ghaywan that traces the experiences of two women - played by Konkona Sen Sharma and Aditi Rao Hydari - working at a manufacturing unit from the lens of caste.
And a book that did the same?
I recently read a novel called ‘Victory Colony, 1950’ by Bhaswati Ghosh. The book has a very moving feature on entrepreneurial ventures by the refugee women from East Bengal, as they try to rebuild their post-Partition lives in Calcutta.
June 14, 1981 was a momentous year in Switzerland’s history. On that day, the country amended its constitution to make way of equal rights for men and women - the laws of the country would henceforth need to “ensure their equality, both in law and in practice, most particularly in the family, in education, and in the workplace. Men and women have the right to equal pay for work of equal value.”
Ten years later, on June 14, 1991, Switzerland’s women went on strike - the biggest strike in the country since the general strike of 1918. Women employed in watchmaking in the Vallée de Joux were demanding the promise made by the 1981 amendment be fulfilled - they wanted equal pay.
With the slogan ‘Les femmes les bras croisés, le pays perd pied’ (When women fold their arms, the country loses its footing!), an estimated 500,000 women participated in the national strike, an unusual number for a country where strikes are not common (Gallin, 2011).
But their demands remained unfulfilled. Women struck work again on June 14, 2019, and are now readying for their next strike next month. This year, Swiss unions are questioning lower wages for “women’s jobs”. Sectors with larger shares of women employees tend to be among the worst paid, the Swiss Trade Union said ahead of the strike, pointing to the fact that this is not only about individual professions, but rather “structural inequality”.
That’s all from us for this edition. Thank you for reading! We will see you next month. In the meantime, if you have feedback, questions, tips, or just want to say hello, feel free to do so by replying to this email, or drop in a word at email@example.com.
Curated by: Akshi Chawla for the Centre for Economic Data & Analysis (CEDA), Ashoka University. Cover illustration: Nithya Subramanian