The government has begun work on a comprehensive policy to increase the participation of women in the workforce over the next five years to at least 30%, in line with the Bharatiya Janata Party’s poll promise.

Under consideration are tax incentives for companies that employ women above a threshold, implementation of existing legislation in the informal sector and liberal policies to enable women to return to work, among others.

Besides, the government will seek to ensure a minimum set of gender-sensitive provisions such as access to privacy, minimum wages and maternity benefits as well as leave and grievance redressal for female workers in the informal sector.

The idea is being internally deliberated and the policy could follow soon considering it is one of the priorities of the government, said a senior government official aware of the discussions.

A recent Deloitte report showed that women’s participation in the Indian labour force has fallen to 26% in 2018 from 36.7% in 2005, pointing out that 95% or 195 million women are employed in the unorganised sector or in unpaid jobs.

The labour force participation rate refers to the percentage of those employed or looking for work.

The recent Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) by the ministry of statistics has shown that the unemployment rate was the highest among urban females at 10.8% while it was at 3.8% among rural females in FY18.

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Rules not Strictly Enforced in Informal Sector
In the 15-29 age bracket, the unemployment rate stood at 27.2% among urban females and 13.6% among rural women compared with 18.7% among urban males and 17.4% among rural males.

The Niti Aayog had suggested in its ‘India@75’ road map that the government should strive toward enhancing the female labour force participation to 30%. The BJP manifesto had said it would formulate a comprehensive ‘Women in the Workforce’ road map focussed on dramatically increasing the female workforce participation rate over the next five years. It also pledged to encourage companies to generate better employment opportunities for women.

According to the official, this would be a multi-sectoral task and various ministries including those of labour and employment, women and child development, skill development and human resource development will have to be brought on board to realise the target.

“Since the government sets the narrative, it is important that it clearly reflects the actions that will be taken by the government and ensure that such women-centric policy measures do not backfire as has happened in the past with the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017,” said Rituparna Chakraborty, president of the Indian Staffing Federation.

The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act of 2013 are meant to protect women workers. However, these are not strictly implemented in the informal sector, and as a result female workers do not feel adequately compensated or safe at the workplace.





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