As economic activity and trade have slowed dramatically, layoffs have become daily news across the formal and informal economy. At the end of all this we may yet find new economic arrangements, “more cohesive, inclusive and equal societies”, as last week’s World Economic Forum report suggested. Meanwhile, the pain is real. And women workers have been disproportionately vulnerable in this climate.

To illustrate, a Citigroup global analysis (which excluded China) recently estimated that out of 44 million workers in the most affected sectors, 31 million women were confronting unemployment compared to 13 million men. Social bias plays a role: In a harsh season, both employers and families see women’s jobs as dispensable. Women are forced to drop out for chores and care-work, that men refuse to share and the state fails to subsidise. Even before Covid struck Indian women of all education and income levels had been falling out of work, with the employment gap between men and women widening at a worrying rate. This has to do with education and rising expectations as well as the overall shrinking of opportunities.

On the upside the rise of remote working should make it easier for many women to keep their jobs. It is time for work-life balance to be recognised by all, instead of a male ruling class keeping the rewards of ‘work’ for men and the burdens of ‘life’ for women. Women’s equal right to gainful work is not a matter of personal fulfilment, it is crucial for a fairer world.

Courtesy Times of India