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THE GLOBAL ECONOMY has created a flexible labour market and the myth of ‘feminization of work’, in reality; it has led to unemployment and underemployment of women in India. One study puts female unemployment at six to seven times that of men. In the rural areas, 30 lakh women have lost jobs in agriculture and livestock. Women have lost 1, 45,000 jobs in the textiles sector during 1994-2000. Female underemployment is also increasing at a faster rate than for men. This article will concentrate on some aspects of women workers outside of the agriculture sector. India has 397 million workers out of which 123.9 million are women. 106 million of these workers are in the rural areas and the remaining 18 million work in urban areas. Only 7% of India’s huge labour force is in the organized sector, which includes workers on regular salaries, in registered companies and firms. The rest of the workers – 93% work in the unorganized or informal sector. The figures for women workers in India are even more dismal – almost 96% of the women workers are in the unorganized sector. The female work participation rate (WPR) has increased overall from 19.7% in 1981 to 25.7% in 2001. In the rural areas it has increased from 23.1 to 31% and in the urban areas it has risen from 8.3 to 11.6%. ‘Participation’, however, has been largely distress induced and has compelled women to take up jobs which offer very poor wages and no social security. There has been a significant increase in women employed in petty retail trade, hotels and restaurants in the last decade as part of survival strategy of poor urban households. Hotels and restaurants have shown an increase of 2, 78,000 women workers from 1994 to 2000. These are typically low paying jobs where women work for long hours without any benefits and face sexual harassment. The 9 sectors where 90% where Indian women work are agriculture,...
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