Welfare of Women Laborers – UPSC GS1

In India women constitute bulk of the work force but they lag behind men in terms of level and quality of employment. What mechanism exists in India to address various issues faced by women labourers? Critically comment on the design and performance of these existing measures. (200 Words)

Women constitute almost 30% of the total workforce in India. Given their importance, the  Constitution extends to women workers a host of protection in terms of fundamental rights such as Article 14 and directive principles such as Articles 39 and 42. Despite this, women labourers continue to face discrimination and inequality, which relegates them to a subordinate status. In order to make the above mentioned constitutional protections meaningful, the following policy and legislative measures, have been adopted:
  1. Statutory recognition of the principle of equal pay for equal work under the Equal  Remuneration Act, 1976;
  2. Provision of maternity benefits under the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961;
  3. General labour legislations like Factories Act, Mines Act, Plantation Act et al contain special provisions relating to women such as
    1. provisioning for separate toilets, bathing facilities and crèches
    2. regulation of work hours
    3. prohibition of employment of women in hazardous occupations and night work;
  4. Provision relating to the prevention and prohibition of sexual harassment are contained in the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013;
  5. Ministry of Labour is running a Grant-in-aid Scheme for the welfare of women labour for the purposes of organising and educating women workers.
Clearly, underlying the above mentioned policy and legislative framework exists a strong desire on part of the Indian state to protect its women workers. However, despite the presence of these mechanisms, women are still paid lesser than their male counterparts and work in inhumane conditions. This is reflected in that fact that India continues to have one of the lowest female work participation rates in the world. This could be because –
  1. First, the abovementioned framework is ineffectively implemented and
  2. Second, this framework is by itself insufficient to tackle the problems of women workforce.
Therefore, the need of the hour is to adopt a more holistic approach which involves an overhaul of the societal attitude towards women in general and women labourers in particular in addition to the effective implementation of the mechanisms listed above.



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