Gujarat ranks a poor 14th in the percentage of women’s participation in the organized industrial sector, say new ASI data

womenFemale participation in workplace is an important yardstick of women’s empowerment in society. The recent Annual Survey of Industries (ASI) survey, even while providing data on the economic health of industrial units separately for each state, simultaneously gives details of the working class employed in the factories. An analysis of the ASI data by Rajiv Shah suggests that participation of women in the organized industrial sector is one of the poorest in Gujarat. In fact, Gujarat ranks 14th in a list of selected 22 major states:

The latest Annual Survey of Industries (ASI) report, based on a complete survey of India’s industrial establishments carried out between October 2011 and April 2012, has sought to bracket Gujarat with the socially backward states of India as far as women’s participation in the organized industrial labour force is concerned. Released in 2013, the report has suggested that, lately, there has been some acceleration in employment opportunities provided by Gujarat industries. However, when it comes to offering jobs to women, the state’s ranking remains one of the poorest in India, 14th in a list of 22 states, indeed equal to some of those states which have had poor score in gender equality. This factor, interestingly, has been overlooked by both state policy makers as well analysts of gender issues.

Out of a total of 6.34 lakh “directly employed” workers working in the state’s 16,931 industrial units, the report says, 6.01 lakh workers are males, and just about 33,456 are females, making up 5.27 per cent of the total workforce. The states which have a lesser proportion of women workers in the industrial workforce are – Chhattisgarh 2.51 per cent, Bihar 4.24 per cent, Haryana 4.13 per cent, Punjab 4.71 per cent, Madhya Pradesh 5.10 per cent, Rajasthan 2.61 per cent,  Uttar Pradesh 3.61 per cent, and West Bengal 2.00 per cent. Haryana and Punjab, like Gujarat, have done quite well on economic development, but when it comes to gender issues, they are found to lagging. Like Gujarat, Haryana and Punjab are one of the worst states in child sex ratio, for instance. The report has been prepared by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India.

What should be particularly shocking for Gujarat’s policy makers, who seek to work for women’s empowerment, is that the all-India average percentage of women who are part of the workforce and are “directly employed” is 18.78 per cent – as many as 12.28 lakh are women out of the total directly-employed workforce of 65.41 lakh in the country as a whole. The best performing state, like in any other social indicator such as gender equality, is Kerala, those 62.68 per cent of the directly-employed workforce consists of women. On the other hand, the states which do slightly better than Gujarat are Assam (7.47 per cent), Himachal Pradesh (8.86 per cent), Jammu and Kashmir (6.55 per cent), Jharkhand (6.01 per cent), and Uttarakhand (8.74 per cent).

In fact, the southern states lead India as far as women’s participation in the organized industrial sector is concerned. Next to Kerala is Tamil Nadu with 39.21 per cent of women workers out of a total of 12.75 lakh “directly-employed” workers. Karnataka has 37.96 per cent women workers out of a total of the total workforce of 48.03 lakh, and Andhra Pradesh has 22.04 per cent women workers out of a total of 5.04 lakh workers. Odisha, which has lately acquired significance in contributing to the national economy by attracting one of the highest industrial investment proposals, has 14.75 per cent of the workforce as women, while neighbouring Maharashtra, often compared for any social and economic indicators with Gujarat, has 11.03 per cent of the workforce as women.

women ASIThe ASI report — which is based on very specific guidelines to identify industry units – has identified that the total number of workers working in Gujarat’s factories at the time of survey was 9.92 lakh, out of which 6.34 lakh were “directly employed”, while the rest, 3.58 lakh, making up 35.06 per cent of the total workforce, were employed through the contractors. There is no gender analysis of the workers who were work in industries but are employed by the contractors. It is safe to assume, however, that the states with better social security mechanism employed lesser percentage of workers in industries through contractors – thus, in Kerala just about 16.32 per cent of workers were employed via contractors, which is the lowest in India. This is followed by 19.95 per cent in Tamil Nadu and 21.13 per cent in Karnataka. These three states also top in women’s participation in the industrial workforce.

Pointing towards the methodology of its survey, the ASI report states, “The ASI frame is based on the lists of registered factory/ units maintained by the Chief Inspector of Factories in each state and those maintained by registration authorities in respect of bidi and cigar establishments and electricity undertakings. The frame is being revised and updated periodically by the Regional Offices of the Field Operations Division of National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) in consultation with the Chief Inspector of Factories in the state.” The report adds, “The primary unit of enumeration in the survey is a factory in the case of manufacturing industries, a workshop in the case of repair services, an undertaking or a licensee in the case of electricity, gas and water supply undertakings and an establishment in the case of bidi and cigar industries.”

The report comes almost four years after an Indian Institute of Public Administration  (IIPA), New Delhi, prepared a study “Gendering Human Development Indices: Recasting GDI and GEM for India” for the Government of India. It had found Gujarat’s rank slipping in gender development index (GDI) from 17th in 1996 to 21st in 2006 in an analysis of 35 Indian states it had selected. GDI seeks to “engender” human development index (HDI), introduced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1990, which measures average achievements in a country in three basic dimensions: a long and healthy life, as measured by life expectancy at birth; knowledge, as measured by the adult literacy rate and the combined primary, secondary and tertiary gross enrolment ratio; and a decent standard of living, as measured by estimated earned income. “GDI adjusts the average achievements in the same three dimensions that are captured in the HDI, to account for the inequalities between men and women”, the study states.

The ASI report should provoke a discussion against the backdrop of the new the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, passed in Indian Parliament recently. The ASI report is also significant as it comes alongside another report by an NGO in the national Capital, Delhi Study Group, which ranked Gujarat a poor “D” in a multi-indicator gender scoreboard, even as giving an “A” grade to India’s southern and north-eastern states. The report by the advocacy group prepared the scorecard by ranking states and the Centre on seven indicators — sex ratio, health, education, political representation, crimes against women, employment and decision-making — and grading them from “A” to “J” (one to ten) relative to their distance from an ideal score.

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