According to research conducted by the consulting firm Dalberg, women in low-income households in India lost jobs more frequently than males, reduced their food intake and rest, and performed more unpaid care duties. They are also taking longer to re-enter the labour force following the initial wave of the Covid-19 outbreak last year, according to the study.
According to the report, which covered the March-October period last year, about a tenth of the women polled said they ate less or ran out of food, while 16 per cent had limited or no access to menstrual pads and more than 33 per cent of married women couldn’t access contraception because the pandemic disrupted public health outreach programmes.
In recent months, India has experienced a terrible second wave, leaving the country dealing with the world’s fastest-spreading Covid pandemic, which has overloaded its hospitals and crematoriums. While the study illustrates how the epidemic disrupted lives in India before the worst hit, it emphasises how women’s nutrition, health, and employment are the first to suffer when household budgets must be squeezed and are likely the longest to recover.
According to Totapally, society will pay a high price if the pandemic pulls more women out of the labour field, families deeper into debt and poverty, and more girls drop out of school, potentially leading to more child marriages.
Here are some of the study’s other findings, which included a survey of around 15,000 women and 2,300 men from low-income households in ten Indian states:
- Women made up only 24% of those working before the epidemic, but they accounted for 28% of those who lost their jobs and 43% of those who have yet to return to paid labour
- Approximately 47 per cent of women reported an increase in housework, compared to 43 per cent of men, and 41 per cent of women reported an increase in unpaid care duties, compared to 37 per cent of men
- In the epidemic, 27 per cent of women reported getting less sleep than 18 per cent of men
- Muslim and migrant women, as well as unmarried, separated, or divorced women, were particularly heavily hit
- The report proposed “enlistment drives” in the government’s flagship rural job guarantee programme, which is geared primarily toward women, in order to expand the “total person-days offered” under it. Combining menstruation pads with the government’s free food distribution programme will increase access and usage, according to policy recommendations
Reduced involvement in the formal labour force is one of the well-documented consequences of a larger unpaid work burden, and reversing this trend will be difficult. “We believe that this rise in women’s family load will make it difficult for them to re-enter the labour field, resulting in economic implications that may outlive the pandemic,” said the report. —Bloomberg
(News input: The Print)