A woman competing with a man for jobs in India’s villages is 100 per cent likely to face discrimination because of her gender and stands only a two per cent chance of finding work in cities, a new report from Oxfam found.
Social pressure and employer prejudices contributed to a bias against hiring women, according to data published on September 14. The discrimination also means women have salaries that are 67 per cent lower than those earned by men.
To close the gap in women’s labour participation, the Indian government would have to offer incentives for better pay, training, skills acquisition, and job quotas to prospective employers to encourage the hiring of women, said the report, titled ‘India Discrimination Report 2022’, and based on government data as well as Oxfam’s own research.
India’s female work participation rate was just 25 per cent for 2021, according to federal government data, among the lowest for emerging economies.
“What the report finds is if a man and woman starts on an equal footing, the woman will be discriminated in the economic sphere where she will lag behind in regular/salaried, casual and self-employment,” Amitabh Behar, chief executive of Oxfam India said in a statement. “The inequality in the labour market for gender and other social categories is not just due to poor access to education or work experience but because of discrimination.”
Discrimination not limited to women
Other groups faced discrimination as well, the report said.
People not belonging to the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Schedules Tribes (STs) earn Rs.5,000 per month more than those from the two communities, while non-Muslims earn Rs.7,000 per month more than Muslims on an average, according to the Oxfam India report.
The report said that 15.6 per cent of the urban Muslim population aged 15 and above was engaged in regular salaried jobs whereas 23.3 per cent of non-Muslims were in regular salaried jobs, in 2019-20. “The lower employment for urban Muslims attributes 68 per cent to discrimination. In 2019-20, 70 per cent of the difference between Muslim and non-Muslim engaged as salaried workers was due to discrimination,” it said.
The report said self-employed SC/STs earn Rs.5,000 less than non-SC/STs and discrimination accounts for 41 per cent of this gap.
The rural SC and ST communities are facing a rapid increase in discrimination in casual employment, the report showed. The data said unequal income among rural SC and ST casual wage workers was majorly — 79 per cent — because of discrimination in 2019-20, a sharp increase of 10 per cent from the previous year.
In rural areas, Muslims saw the sharpest increase in unemployment — 17 per cent — in the first quarter of COVID-19. “For salaried workers during Covid, Muslims emerge as the most affected group for which the percentage figures went up from 11.8 to 40.9 in rural areas, the corresponding increase for SC/ST (5.6 to 28.3) and general category (5.4 to 28.1) being less than that,” it said.
Muslims, in rural areas, recorded the maximum decline in earnings of 13 per cent, while it was close to nine per cent for others, the report said. In rural areas, in the self-employed category, Muslims had the highest fall in earnings by about 18 per cent against that of below 10 per cent for the SC/STs and others, it said.
In 2017, people belonging to the bottom 20 per cent income group, who were from SC and ST communities got 1.7 times lesser hospital care compared to OBCs and others in the same income group.
Historically, oppressed communities such as Dalits and Adivasis along with religious minorities such as Muslims also continue to face discrimination in accessing jobs, livelihoods, and agricultural credits, the report said.
The mean income for SCs and STs in urban areas, who are regular employees, is Rs.15,312 as against Rs.20,346 for those belonging to the general category. “This means the general category is earning 33 per cent more than SCs or STs according to the report. The average earning of self-employed workers is Rs 15,878 for non-SCs or STs and Rs 10,533 for SCs or STs. The rural SC and ST communities are facing an increase in discrimination in casual employment,” the report said.
“Self-employed non-SC/ST workers earn a third more than their SCs or STs counterparts. Caste also acts as a major barrier while accessing credit for agriculture despite many agricultural labourers being from SC or ST communities. STs and SCs receive less than a quarter of the credit shares that the forward castes receive,” the report said.
Muslims continue to face multidimensional challenges in accessing salaried jobs and income through self-employment as compared to non-Muslims.
The lower employment for urban Muslims was largedly — 68.3 per cent — due to discrimination, in 2019-20. The report showed that discrimination faced by Muslims in 2004-05 was 59.3 percent, indicating an increase in discrimination by nine per cent over 16 years.
Regular-salaried non-Muslims in urban areas earn Rs 20,346 on an average, which is 1.5 times higher than Muslims who earn Rs 13,672, the report said. “This means non-Muslims are earning 49 per cent more than Muslims in regular employment,” the report noted.
“Self-employed non-Muslims earn Rs 15,878 on an average, while self-employed Muslims earn Rs 11,421 despite the community’s overrepresentation in urban self-employment. This means non-Muslims are earning a third more than Muslims in self-employment,” it said.
Amitabh Behar said the fallout of discrimination in society is multi-faceted, not just social and moral but also economic, leading to adverse consequences.