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IWWAGE Bi-Monthly Seminar: Women and the Future of Work

IWWAGE Bi-Monthly Seminar: Women and the Future of Work

Ms. Sabina Dewan, the co-founder of JustJobs Network joined us on 19th October 2022 to present and discuss “Women, Work and Digital Platforms”. She outlined the current state of women’s workforce participation globally and in India, discussed how digital platforms and gig economy have impacted their workforce participation and the key challenges that exist, and concluded with providing recommendations on improving the work offered to women through these platforms. The key discussion points of the seminar were as follows:

1. Context

    1. Despite a great amount of efforts and funding, global averages of FLFPR are declining, gender-wide differences are pronounced and consistent across both the global north and south. The pandemic has deepened the existing differences.
    2. Women’s participation in the workforce experienced a U-shaped distribution, where the less educated and skilled women are highly employed in low-skill sectors, mid-level educated and skilled women have low levels of employment and highly educated and skilled women have high levels of employment.
    3. India’s FLFPR also shows dismal trends, the country ranks 135 globally as per the Gender Gap Index (2022)
    4. There is a need to question the ‘structural transformation’ happening in the female labour force participation. The service sector that women enter is extremely heterogeneous. The work that women are transitioning into requires deepened focus.
    5. There are both supply and demand side factors affecting women’s participation that need consideration while examining the transition. Where the supply-side factors include:
      1. longer duration of education,
      2. lack of access to technology,
      3. skills,
      4. social security,
      5. infrastructure

    And the demand side factors are:

      1. quantity of jobs,
      2. quantity and quality of jobs available to women,
      3. employer propensity to hire women

2. Digital Platforms and the Gig Economy

    1. Digital platforms are now considered to boost both income and the FLFPR, which include:
      1. E-commerce such as Amazon and Etsy enabling women to work-from-home and realize their entrepreneurial talent
      2. Services, which is two-pronged and includes delivery services like transport, home-care, personal services and, web-based work.
      3. Online platforms, using social media as marketplaces
    2. It is important to question if these platforms can be leveraged to be of high-quality and be gender inclusive, and how the women involved in the work are actually faring.
    3. Women were attracted to these opportunities due to its flexibility, autonomy over the work undertaken, income generated, and representation. However, over time, the opportunities did not completely do well on these factors. Women’s time poverty, limited choice of work, reduced social capital, and limited to no social security dampened the early enthusiasm.
    4. In the platform economy, women are working on a different set of tasks, where the opportunities for women and their willingness to work are not stagnant or consistent.
    5. While 8% of the world’s platforms are concentrated in India and 1/4th of the global share of the online workforce exists in India, the size of women employed in the gig economy is also not currently estimated.
    6. Aggregate trends of structural transformation don’t mean much if the quality of work provided to women doesn’t improve.

3. Recommendations

  1. Women and data: Bridging the invisibility of women in data by accessing platform-level data. Currently, no regulation mandates them (platforms) to share it, and there are no data sharing and transparency norms. Further, institutions, policies and regulations take longer to adapt than how the labour market is transitioning. Therefore, the data is always lagging.
  2. Acknowledging socio-cultural barriers: as long as they are not addressed, long term disparities within the labour force will continue to persist. Data-gap cannot be considered as an excuse to not act on the apparent.
  3. Supportive ecosystem is necessary for women to succeed which includes: gender-sensitized policies, safety at work, addressing time poverty, incentives to access high level skills, social security, political participation and leadership. Gender insensitive infrastructure needs to be addressed to bring firm changes in the current FLFPR.

The session ended with a fruitful discussion from all participants who joined in the seminar, both on the web and in-person.

Watch the recording here:

 

 

Link to the presentation