WOMEN WORK FORCE PARTICIPATION AND THEIR ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT: ISSUES AND CHALLENGES
Dept. of Economics,
The topic “Women Work force Participation and their effects on economic empowerment” is most debated issue and women empowerment is very much relevant and related to the all-round development of modern society.No country can prosper if its women are not empowered or not given proper recognition. In 1994, at the International Conference on population and development in Cairo, development organisations agreed that women’s empowerment is necessary for important development outcomes: ‘the empowerment and autonomy of women and the improvement of their political, social, economic and health status, constitute an important end in themselves, and one that is essential for achieving sustainable development. Gender equality and women empowerment are necessary for the improvement of women and men’s well-being for social justice and for the achievement of development goals. Many researchers have undertaken their research works on women empowerment and the determinants of female labour participation. Most of the works do not look closely at the relationship between employment and economic empowerment and women empowerment.
This paper intends to investigate the determinants and constraints of women work participation and their effect on economic empowerment. There are so many papers on women empowerment but there are only a few papers on constraints of women participation. So, this study is an attempt to identify the factors that discourage and encourage women to participate in the labour force across the said district and how they affect women empowerment. This study will show that employment rates of women are inversely proportional to the number of children and age of the youngest child when no account of past work is taken. A major factor that reduces the female labour force participation is marriage. This paper suggests that the economic participation of women is significantly influenced by factors such as age, education, and marital status. There are very few research works on the present issue in Visakhapatnam district. So the research study area is selected as Visakhapatnam district.
Society runs on the two wheels (men and women), both the wheels must be equally strong to run the society smoothly. It is a good sign that today’s women are not treated as a weaker sex. They are being taught equally right from their childhood as a result women are working in every field. “But is this happening in the real world? Then the answer is No”. Specially, in case of India, although legally and theoretically women are now considered as equal to men, yet there are situations and people, who refuse to give them their due. They think that the woman are inferior to men and ill treat them and misbehave with them (M Sharma, 2014).
Economic empowerment is a very important component of women’s empowerment. Economic empowerment is one of the most-effective means for organising women who can be brought together only on the basis of felt needs. Economic empowerment refers to earning power, collective bargaining for economic gains, and control over means of production, involvement in decision-making regarding economic aspects and development of skills in management.
Work Force Participation or Labour Force Participation is an important factor in the study of development process. Although, women work for longer hours and contribute substantially to the family income, they are not perceived as workers by either the women themselves or the data collecting agencies and the Government as all of them do not recognise the multi-dimensional functions of women which include their productive and reproductive labour. Women quite often are the major bread earners for their families. This also goes unrecognised. Evidently, women’s work constitutes to be invisible and women continue to be marginalised and discriminated against in the field of employment. The result is non-recognition of their multiple roles and devaluation of their status in the household and family. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO),there is a tendency to under value women’s work in the rural areas. All of their work is taken as in paid family labour. But if it is quantified the World’s Gross National Product (GNP) would increase by 20-30 percent more (ILO 1981-85). United Nation Statistics envisaged that women perform 67 percent of world’s working hours and earn only 10percent of the world’s income. They posses less than one per cent of the world’s property.
Women as human resource in India constitute about 50 percent of the total population and about 77 percent of them live in rural areas. Majority of them come from small, marginal and landless families. Their main occupation is agriculture and allied activities, involving them either as cultivators, or agricultural labourers. About 60-70 percent of labour input is provided by women in production, processing and storage of food grains and women are responsible for 68 per cent of the food production.Women are the driving force behind 70 per cent of the small enterprises with nearly 35 percent of the families’ dependant on them. In India, about 30 percent of the total population lives below the poverty line of which 70 percent are women. Therefore, eradication of poverty among women in India cannot be accomplished through anti-poverty programmes alone but will require drastic changes in the domestic participation rates and changes in the economic structure in order to ensure their access to resources. Emancipation of women does not stop with economic independence alone. The rural women who toil with household chores should be made free by reducing the household drudgery. At the same time efforts shall be taken in increase the productivity levels of women. Along with general education, job specific technical education will go a large way in improving the productivity levels of the women workforce. To ensure better participation, training should be conducted at village level since women are engaged equally in domestic sector also. Condensed courses and vocational courses by various voluntary agencies will also improve the self employment opportunities for women. The role of Krishi Vigyan Kendra is laudable in transfer of technology to the farm which the rural women folk can also take advantage of.
Women face a number of constraints in the participation of work such as gender bias, sexual harassment, domestic violence and low wages. Due to these constraints women work participation rate falls which lowers economic empowerment of women and which in turn is an obstacle to economic development of the country. We can say women’s participation in income-generating activities will lead to women empowerment due to having access to resources; women can improve her bargaining position, thereby allowing for greater control over decisions and life choices. If a woman has income of her own, she has a greater ability to take care of herself and is therefore less dependent on her husband or others for survival. Her ability to negotiate within the household should increase not only because she has more to offer the household but also because she has an improved fallback position. Greater bargaining power in households has been seen as empowering because it affords a woman greater control over her and her family’s life, working may contribute empowerment because it allows women to participate in the public sphere, to interact with a wider network of individuals. Empowerment of women through work-participation is very much essential to achieve sustainable development.
Empowerment: Before we go into the relation between women work participation and women empowerment, we shall see the definiton of empowerment. It is as a “multi-dimensional social process that helps people gain control over their own lives. It is a process that fosters power in people, for use in their own lives, their communities, and in their society, by acting on issues that they define as important.” (Page and Czuba, 1999).
In the same way, women’s empowerment refers to “women’s ability to make strategic life choices where that ability had been previously denied them” (Malhotra et al., 2009). So Malhotra argues that empowerment is central to the processes of keeping and maintaining the benefits of women not only at the individual and household level but also at the community and broader levels.It involves the action of boosting the status of women through literacy, education, training and raising awareness (Alvarez and Lopez, 2013).
Hence, women’s empowerment is all about allowing and equipping women to make life-determining choices across different issues in the country.
Issues and Challenges of Women-work force participation:Though women-work participation has been increased during different periods in Visakhapatnam district, there is lack of women empowerment in all areas of Visakhapatnam district. This is also more or less true in Andhra Pradesh as a whole and also in India. It is also evident that women have limited decision making power, limited mobility and limited control over resources and a high acceptance of domestic violence.
Though employment plays an important role in the process of improving women’s empowerment in India, there are some barriers to overcome. These structural barriers to women’s right and equality must be addressed in the household, in the community, in the state, in the nation and around the globe. The women workers of Visakhapatnam district are not self-sufficient. A woman can’t make independent decisions regarding income-generating activities rather all such decisions are taken in consultation with her husband, son and daughter-in-law. The local community leader (or chairman) and village elite make important community related decisions. The real picture is that women are powerless. The women workers in our study area have not been empowered (empowered in a few cases only) in the true sense.
The Government adopts different policies and programmes for empowerment of women in Visakhapatnam district. In spite of increases in work-participation of women in the study area, most of the population live below the poverty line. They remain poor. There exists low-level of education among the people. They are not fit to get jobs in the formal sector. Most of them are thus engaged in informal and low paid jobs. Government policies, plans, programmes and legislation should be appropriately implemented with the sustained involvement of the women to ensure the empowerment of women and fulfil the missions, so that women can also contribute equally as the men for ensuring socio-economic development not only at village Panchayat level but also at the block level, district level, State level and National level. The empowerment of women may be regarded as an asset for socio-economic development of a nation. Through active participation of women in the work force adds income to their families and the families are enriched but women do not get back their expected respects from their families as well from the society at large. Formation of policies alone is not sufficient to mitigate this chronic social problem. It is totally an issue of mentality and we should have to broaden our mind and heart accordingly. There should not be any discrimination between men and women.
Thus promoting workforce participation of women and to achieve their economic empowerment, it is pertinent to remove the chalenges faced by them. Only when we make full use of the potential of women, economic, social and political development is possible and we are not able to achiev this to the optimum level due to the gender gap and the bias that still exists against women. For empowering women and making use of their labour force to attain economic growth, the following suggestions are put forward:
- The District administration of Visakhapatnam should make efforts to properly implement all the policies and schemes that are in place to empower women.
- Only when these are effectively implemented at the grassroot level and in rural areas to educate and improve the health of women, then only productivity and social development would be enhanced.
- Empowering women and providing them with fair representation at the village and panchayat level to achieve quality governance
- Protect the rights of women so that they become active participants in social, economic and political sectors to enjoy the several facilities that are available.
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