Women Find Themselves At The Wrong End Of India’s K-Shaped Recovery

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Economists have settled on the letter ‘K’ as the best representation of the recovery from the Covid-19 crisis — some segments of the economy have rebounded strongly, while others have faltered.

That divergence, most often referred to in the context of income segments, has also extended to gender.

While employment among men is moving back to pre-Covid levels rapidly, for women it has been a slow climb. The reasons, researchers and economists say, cover a wide spectrum. From marital status and education to caste and religion, are all factors that could be behind the slow recovery of employment among women as the Covid crisis eases.

As of December 2020, the worker participation rate for women was at 85% of its pre-pandemic level in urban areas and at 78% in rural areas, according to the analysis of the Centre For Monitoring Indian Economy or CMIE’s Consumer Pyramids Household Survey analysed by researchers at the Azim Premji University. For men, the worker participation rate is now nearly back at pre-pandemic levels.

Research work underway at the university, being led by Rosa Abraham, Amit Basole and Surbhi Kesar, titled ‘Down and Out? The Gendered Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on India’s Labour Market’ digs further into this trend. Early findings suggest that despite historically low work participation rates for women, a significant proportion of women experienced job loss of a more permanent nature because of the pandemic, while men experienced an almost-complete recovery into employment.

The work participation rate is defined as the percentage of total workers to the total working-age population.

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