Yesterday a tweet by a user who goes by the name of ‘Gabbar’ caused an uproar on the microblogging site. He had tweeted ‘As family income grows women choose to care for the family as there is no compulsion to work.’ He was reasoning out the fact why women leave jobs.
This user was referring to new data from the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy Pvt, a private research firm in Mumbai and reported by Bloomberg. According to this data between the years 2017 and 2022, the overall labour participation rate dropped from 46% to 40%. Among women, the data is even starker. About 21 million disappeared from the workforce, leaving only 9% of the eligible population employed or looking for positions. Though women represent half the population (49%) they contribute only 18% of its economic output, about half the global average. This is a scary scenario for sure.
The full tweet of this user read, “A lot is being made of the 20 million women disappearing from the Indian workforce in the last 5 years. The fact is women in workforce has been steadily decreasing in India.
Reason: As family income grows women choose to care for family as there is no compulsion to work.”
He then added by saying “This tweet is classic dumb woke trap. I purposely didn’t add the World Bank report link with the opening tweet. None of the wokes, coz of no history of diligence in their careers, went through the thread to understand. Started shrieking pronto in Quote tweets.”
To this a woman replied “also putting the World Bank report as a goddamn ‘woke’ trap is so idiotic because that report clearly states the reasons as to why the participation rates aren’t increasing. it’s because the state doesn’t provide women alternative methods like creches or daycares that help.”
This is a problematic tweet because first, it means women step out of home only when their families need additional income and secondly, that the primary job of a woman is as a caregiver and home manger. And that Indians are okay with this. What kind of a twisted comment is this? It opens up a whole Pandora’s box.
The workplace is not women-friendly
Women do not choose to join the labour force because firstly, jobs or their workplaces are often not kind to them. Take for example men are willing to change trains to reach their job while women are less willing to do that. This is a huge reason for women’s dropping out of the job race. The commuting part does not suit a woman’s daily routine.
Secondly, the job timings and expectations deter them. When the HR and managers of companies expect the same kind of commitment and office time from them, the women themselves take a step back.
No help with household chores
A woman Twitter user replying to the tweet wrote “FFS, men I beg you to not speak FOR women. Most women don’t “choose” to give up their careers and concentrate on family. Most women are pressured/coerced into it. Also, what country are you living in? Raising kids is SOO expensive these days. Most times, one income CAN NOT cover it”.
While another woman wrote “the idea that you think there is a ‘choice’ involved for women when it comes to housework shows your skewed interpretation of data. There isn’t a choice, you’re talking about upper-middle-class families which is what ‘allows’ women to take up education, overwork.” And added, “a woman spends 19.2% of her time doing unpaid housework, add that to the number of women who are expected to do both which leads to 85% participation rates.”
Does the original Twitter user know that a woman is expected to do 100% of household chores in a normal family even if she’s a working woman? How many men are expected to do the same? Looking after the children, the elderly and the kitchen has been burdened on the woman for some reason, so from where is she going to give an equal amount of commitment and hours as men. Due to this pressure women prefer to sit it out at home.
In general employment opportunities have decreased
The decline in the labour force can be tracked from even before the pandemic. In 2016, after the government decided on ‘demonetisation’ in an attempt to an attempt to root out illicit money, the economy went into a shock. The roll-out of a nationwide sales tax or VAT around the same time posed another challenge. The country struggled to adapt to the transition from an informal to a formal economy. The job market took a beating, there were lesser suitable jobs for young people and women and the pandemic lockdown crushed it. So now, the country needs to create at least 90 million new non-farm jobs by 2030, according to a 2020 report by McKinsey Global Institute. That would require an annual GDP growth of 8% to 8.5%.
The government to address the issue, has proposed to raise the minimum marriage age for women to 21 years. According to a recent State Bank of India analysis, this might increase labour participation as women might get encouraged to pursue higher education and a career.
In the end, I would like to say that, this line of argument by the Twitter user that women out of choice are out of the workforce has been used by patriarchal societies to push women’s roles to their households and to keep them from participating in external employment, regardless of choice since ages. It’s about time we change this. It’s 2022 remember!
The views expressed are the author’s own.