A skilled women workforce is one of the largest possibilities and opportunities that India has to offer.
By Sunil Dahiya
India is full of opportunities, but the participation of women in our workforce needs a massive push in almost all fields like social, financial, military, medical and technology and the corporate sector. Explaining the phenomenon of the missing 235 million, The Economist highlights the significant dip in women participation in the Indian workforce from 35% in 2005 to 26% in 2018, even as the economy grew two-fold in the same period along with a 25% increase in the number of working-age women. If we are able to increase the women employment rates to the level of the males, it will result in an incremental 235 million workers for India.
There are three main factors that have affected the growth of women professionals in our country.
- Gender-based stereotypes.
- Exclusion of women from informal networks.
- Insufficient resources for exclusive skilling centres for women
Can professional skill development for women be the solution? Most of the women think so. As per a National Sample Survey, more than half of non-working women acknowledged that they did not have the desired skills to take up jobs. The survey also concluded that women with vocational skills are more likely to get jobs. Another study has concluded that skill development programs by the Government have immense potential as they incorporate gender quotas and provide incentives for placements.
The challenge lies in creating the right ecosystem for skilling women in professional skills. Government has now started taking this up on a large scale. The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship [MSDE] has launched multiple schemes for women’s skill development. There are now 18 National Skill Training Institutes only for women. Other than this, women are now actively encouraged to take up apprenticeship training under the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme.
The COVID-19 pandemic apart from creating challenges for the world over, has also given us new directions and solutions. The new emerging ‘work from home’ culture has opened up new avenues for the corporate sector. Also, women employees who can now work from home as a policy measure. Surveys have concluded that in most of the cases, the work from home policy has worked very well, especially for women, and their productivity has improved while also managing their homes and saving on travel time. Also, the constraint of taking up jobs in other cities and remote locations has been substantially mitigated.
Another way to empower women is by creating self-employment opportunities. This can be done by offering training to women in dedicated institutions and complementing this with easy loans or grants to start their own businesses. This will go a long way in helping women live their own lives without being dependent on others. Also, this will create more jobs for women to work in such establishments.
Skilling should also be introduced right at the school level for everybody, including women. This will ensure female students are trained for skills by the time they leave schools. Those interested in further education also must have access to specialized skilling while those who choose to get into after-school jobs should be skilled enough to get into their trained professions.
But for this, both the government and the industry must work together to create the infrastructure for developing skilling centres in schools. Monetary incentives will go a long way in encouraging girl students to take up skilling. There are many girls who cannot study beyond schools for various economic and social reasons. Skilling them at the school level will go a long way in helping them get jobs easily. The industry and the corporate sector can help by providing hands-on-training to the students while the students are still studying in schools and later by giving them jobs after their training is over.
However, it is imperative that we hasten the requisite socio-economic changes and start developing effective solutions to bridge the infrastructural and societal gaps in women’s skilling with a sense of urgency. A preliminary IANS-CVoter Economy Battery survey has revealed that Indian women have already lost more jobs than men during the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, gender agnostic policy-led initiatives focused on vocational education and training courses, work-related benefits, conducive work environment, and diversification of jobs will be key to making India the “Skill Capital” of the world.
Source: BW BusinessWorld