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Fourth industrial revolution? Female labour force down from 37% in 2005 to 26% in 2018

Counterview Desk
Discussing the paradox around the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) as an enabler of gender equality or an accelerator of gendered disparities, a new report, "Opportunity or Challenge? Empowering Women and Girls in India for the Fourth Industrial Revolution", says that, in India, a decadal analysis of employment data reveals a declining trend of Female Labour Force Participation (FLFP).
Prepared by the Global Compact Network India (GCNI), a non-profit society that functions as the Indian Local Network of the UN Global Compact (UNGC), New York, and top international consultants, Deloitte, the report says that challenges for women and girls emerge from lack of education, access to quality education and a digital divide.
Insisting that these challenges limit girls and women from gaining employable skill sets, entering the workforce, or establishing an enterprise, the report says, "A set of underlying social, economic, and political barriers limit opportunities for women". It adds, "Women’s participation in the Indian workforce is one of the lowest in the world."

Excerpts:

In India context, the female labour force participation has had a decadal fall from 36.7% in 2005 to 26% in 2018, with 95% (195 million) women being employed in the unorganised sector or engaging in unpaid work.
The emergence of 4IR provides invested stakeholders an opportunity to reset the gender agenda, changing it from what it was in the past three revolutions which seem to have widened gender disparities and gender stereotypes. However, the launch of new technologies, digitisation, and automation raises a concern that women employed in low-skilled and low-paying jobs may lose their place in the workforce.
Jobs in the manufacturing and construction sectors may be replaced by automation and most of the new jobs created between now and 2022 will have a technology aspect to them. A report by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) anticipates that Asian nations can lose more than 80% of their jobs in the garment, textile, and apparel manufacturing sectors to automation. This can result in 9 million young girls losing their jobs.
The developmental challenges faced across Asia are similar — girls are dropping out of the school system, fewer girls are making the transition from education to employment, and they are five times less likely to take up a career involving technology or those linked to information and communications technology.
The government through the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship has expressed a deep commitment towards improving female labour force participation. However, significant challenges persist, with gaps in formal education in terms of learning levels, drop-outs, and quality of education.
Current Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) has been documented to be 54% and only 5% Indians can be considered formally skilled. Of 131 countries, India currently holds the 120th position in terms of LFPR.
Despite constituting 48% of the population, women and girls lack education and access to skill building and employment opportunities, resulting in to a fall in female employment rates from 35% of the workforce in 2005 to 28% in 2018. Female LFPR is currently 50% lower than male LFPR in India, with 95% women (195 million) employed in the informal sector.
Gendered disparity triangulated through economic, social, and cultural barriers has resulted in poor education levels and employability of women and girls. This inequality increases with the emergence of the 4IR, with lower proportions of women demonstrating an understanding of digital technologies, automation, internet of things, and big data. At present, only 34% women in India have access to mobile technology.
A report by the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) captures the perceptions and extent of preparedness of 14−18 year olds to enter the workforce in rural India. About 60% of the youth who want to pursue higher education could not read a grade two text; only 43% of them could solve a simple division problem; and an entire cohort of youth had limited foundational reading and math abilities. In addition, 76% females had never used the Internet.
In 2015, the Government of India developed the National Policy for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship to serve underprivileged communities and create a pool of globally competitive skilled workforce.
Against this backdrop, the government conceptualised the National Skills Strengthening for Industrial Value Enhancement (STRIVE) programme to enhance the quality of training and improve the market image of vocational training provided at Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) and through apprenticeships.
Despite a 30% reservation for female students across ITIs, female enrolment is extremely low. The female-to-male ratio across ITIs is 1:10. Of 36 states/union territories, only eight states currently refect a 30% or higher participation of women. Additionally, six states accounting for 32% of the total ITI enrolment have recorded below 5% female enrolment.
Due to this challenge, ITIs that are solely for women have started enrolling male candidates to sustain themselves. Further, only 4% of the apprentices are women, leading to low participation of women (31%) in the overall labour force.
Entrepreneurship is considered as one of the key drivers of 4IR. The sixth Economic Census (2011) indicated that women constituted only 14% of the 58.5 million entrepreneurs in the country. The challenges faced by rural entrepreneurs include social barriers, limited access to a range of resources and knowledge, and low social mobility.
The current demography of India with about 28.1% population in the age group of 0-14 holds a great growth opportunity for the education sector.
However, female enrolment statistics paint a dismal picture. Based on a recent research paper by the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), 39.4% of the adolescent girls in the age group of 15−18 were not attending any educational institution.
The numbers decline further in terms of women entering the workforce.
The total Indian workforce had only 23.3% of the women in 2017−18. A large number of these working women face challenges in continuing with their jobs when family life takes precedence. Such career breaks make it difficult for women to return to the workforce.
Rigid social norms, archaic gender roles that ascribe the burden of domestic care on women, lacuna of information about opportunities, safety concerns, and lack of effective skill development avenues contribute to the poor presence of women (especially the underprivileged) in workforce.
Private sector too suffers from a severe shortage of appropriately skilled candidates. Despite a big push towards the development of the Indian skilling ecosystem by the government of India in the past few years, the unorganised sector remains unskilled.
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