Four in ten women in Karnataka are currently unemployed.
Radha akka works as a domestic help to bring up her four children. Pandemic was a difficult time for her but she waited with great hopes to join work after the ease of Covid restrictions. It was shocking for her when her employers asked her to not come to work after the lockdown. Even her employer lost her job.
In a year, Radha akka was stopped from half of the houses she worked. She is now worrying about paying her four children’s education.
The Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) report shows that the unemployment rate in urban Karnataka for women is 42 percent from January to March 2021.
Lay-offs and the bleak future:
Mrunal J, Radha Akka’s former employer, said, “There had been salary cuts in all companies because of which there were a lot of financial difficulties and we were not able to afford to pay our domestic help.”
Kiran a primary school teacher said that due to the covid-19 pandemic, they were salary cut down from school management. “There was an unconditional enforcement of reduced salaries,” she added. Many of her colleagues were either sacked or quit their job because of this. She said that though she also wants to quit the job, she hasn’t done so.
“Not at the moment. Because of the pandemic, the number of jobs is already reduced concerning availability. Hence in the current scenario, it’s more important to continue with the existing job in your hand, and of course, keep your eyes open for new opportunities” said Kiran.
Revathi a sales manager said, “I lost my job last September. I saw it coming. My department was shut down by my company to reduce the expenditure.” She added that she is not able to support her parents any longer. “My parents are retired and are dependent on my salary.
“I have started a small business of selling dress materials as getting a new job has become difficult since pandemic. The business is not a big success as it’s a huge investment with low return and my parents’ savings are also running out,” she added.
Why just women?
As per the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) report the unemployment rate in Karnataka was 29 percent. The report stated that the unemployment rate of women aged between 20–24 in Karnataka is around 30 percent and around 19 percent in men. The report also shows that the unemployment rate is higher in urban areas than in rural areas.
Sharad Potdar, a Human Resources Manager, said that the companies are suffering from huge losses due to the covid-19 pandemic and lockdown. He said that the main reason for the lay-off was cost-cutting. “The companies were required to lay-off our staff and employees as there wasn’t enough money to pay everyone. Our company had huge stocks of unsold products in our warehouses and godowns. Our company’s income was reduced as the number of orders we usually received reduced.”
“The numbers of females who left the job or laid-off were more as we had more women working on contract basis in various sections of operations in our company,” he explained.
He said that most employees fired were on a contract basis and not on the company payroll.
Reena, a school teacher said, “Almost 30 percent of our staff and most of them being women were either fired or asked to resign. The majority of them were not much experienced.”
This increased unemployment harms women’s financial independence. World Economic Forum (WEF)’s Global Gender Gap index of 2021 shows that India is among the third-worst performer in South Asia. India ranks 140 out of 156 nations with a score of 62.5 percent.
Arundhati Agate, an economics professor explained how unemployment affects women. “This has also led to more burden of household work. During Covid, women had to take care of ill family members. Women migrated back home and are also catering to the family needs like looking after their children during online classes, her in-laws, etc.
“At the household level, there is loss of income and also fall in consumption expenditure as most women spend money on day to day requirements of family and children.”
She said that it is a loss and waste of human resources. “Post pandemic when employment started picking up men recovered employment as women again went to catering to her family needs,” she added.
United Nations Organisation (UNO) has announced ‘Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow’ as the theme for this year’s international women’s day.