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ABSTRACT

ECONOMIC DISCRIMINATION OF WOMEN IN INDIAN LABOR MARKET

* Dr. L.C. Mallaiah

This paper speaks on economic discrimination of women in Indian labor market in terms of wage earnings in the process of globalization. Agricultural wages of men and women are analyzed and theories of wage discrimination are evaluated. It is a very comprehensive macro level study with supporting of micro level studies in India.

Women population constitutes half of the country’s population accounting for 496 million in absolute number as per 2001 census. The women population in India is characterized by low literacy rate (54.16%), low work participation rate of 25.68% and low level of development participation during 2001 census. More than 90% of the women in rural areas and 69% in urban areas were found having no technical skills. For those who worked, the average wage earnings per day were Rs. 21.34 for men and Rs.15.18 for women Agricultural Labor households during 1993-94. Women continued to be “treated as a source of cheap and secondary labor that can be hired and fired to suit the requirements of the employer”.

Women play a significant and crucial role in agricultural development and allied fields including in the main crop production, livestock production, horticulture, post-harvest operations, agro social forestry, fisheries etc. But yet they remained as “invisible workers”.

After independence, as women development is directly related to national development, a large number of programs have been initiated for women development in India. These programs lay emphasis on providing equal opportunities to women by removing gender basis, empowering women and creating self-reliance. It stresses adoption of a holistic approach to women development, to enable them to overcome their problems based on their involvement and participation in the process of development. The committees on the Status of Women in India (1974) found that majority of women were very far from enjoying rights and opportunities guaranteed to them by the constitution.

Women play a crucial role in the socio-economic development of a country. But both in the industrially developed and less developed countries, women are burdened with cumulative inequalities as a result of discriminatory socio-economic practices in India. The situation is much worse particularly in the case of rural women in India. Women not only get pushed into low wage jobs but they are even paid lower remuneration than their male counterparts. The underlying rationale behind this is the supposition that women are materially dependent on men, and therefore the issue of equal remuneration seems an aberration. Still, in agriculture women in general take up only specific jobs, which the male workers usually avoid. It shows a tendency towards a system of job-segregation in the agricultural labor force. Such job segregation has several consequences. It creates a disparity in wage rates between the males and females, the reservation of high prestige and high wage jobs for men and low prestige and low-wage jobs for women workers. It brings down the bargaining power of women workers and reduces them to the state of marginal, intermittent oppressive labor, which is mostly unorganized. Hence the agricultural women laborers constitute the most exploited segment of laborers and their levels of employment and wages remain significantly below those of men in the agricultural labor market.

Discrimination against women in the payment of wages is wide spread in India. Women workers are in general classified as those belonging to the organized and unorganized sectors. The economic conditions of women are quite obvious from the fact that 94% of them are found in unorganized sector leaving only 6% in the organized sector. Out of the 94% of the female laborers found in the unorganized sector, nearly...
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