The sex ratio in India is 933 females per 1000 males. This ratio has shown a continuous decline from 934 in 1981 to 933 at present. In spite of this adverse ratio of women, roughly half the worlds and India’s workforce consists of women. Only Kerala and Himachal Pradesh have more females than males. This huge work-force remains idle and unused to a large extent because of various reasons.
Male dominance and arrogance, illiteracy, lack of education and training, unequal opportunities, and lack of awareness among women about their rights, privileges and potential are some of the main reasons for this sorry state of affairs. The status of working women in India is still considered lower than that of men. Economically, women are less privileged because they are not considered fit for gainful employment and economic activities. But in recent years the urban areas have seen an appreciable increase the number of women seeking employment as teachers, nurses, doctors, stenographers, clerks, sales girls, receptionists, telephone- operators, and secretaries, etc. Many of the professions, like those of executives, administrators, engineers, judges, and lawyers, etc., are dominated by males.
Men hold the strings of their purses, and employed women have no freedom to spend their earnings as they like in most cases. This has given rise to considerable heartburn, tension and family disturbance. The Constitution of India guarantees equal rights and opportunities for both men and women and efforts are being made through development and planning to raise the status of women, besides mainstreaming them into the process of national development on par with men. The programme for the development of women includes employment and income generation programmes, welfare and support services and programmes to create awareness, etc. The governments of India various state governments, with the intention to encourage more women to take up gainful employment outside their homes, have started many schemes.
The policy of same wages for men and women for same job is being strictly adhered to. Under a scheme of rehabilitation, many centres have been set up with the aim of training destitute women in the age group of 18-50, in marketable skills. Some other programmes have also been implemented to provide employment to women through corporations, autonomous bodies and voluntary organisations. Under these schemes, training is imparted to women in selected non-traditional trades, such as electronics, watch-manufacturing, assembling, printing and binding, handlooms, weaving and spinning, and garment-making, etc. Under condensed courses of education and vocational training, run by Central Social Welfare Board through voluntary organisations, women in the age group 18-30 years, who have some schooling, are coached for 2-3 hours to enable them to appear at different levels of examinations like middle school, secondary school and matriculation. The component of vocational training was added to this programme during 1975. During 1992-93, a provision of Rs.
8 cores was made for conducting 1,200 courses and schemes for providing a wide variety of income-generating activities to needy women, particularly the poor and the downtrodden, widows, destitute, and disabled, etc. Small industrial units, handlooms and handicraft units, dairy units and other small, animal husbandry programmes, like piggery, goat and sheep breeding, poultry units and self-employment units have also been set up. A new thrust has been given to identifying new sectors of income generating projects. The programme of support to training- cum-employment for women living below the poverty line was launched in 1987, to strengthen and improve the skills and employment opportunities in traditional sectors where majority of women are already working daily. The focus has been mainly on marginalized and asset less women from households of daily wage laborers, unpaid female workers, female-headed households and other dispossessed groups, in order to integrate them into the mainstream of development. In order to provide cheap, safe and suitable accommodation to working women from low-income groups, hostels have been opened in co-operation with voluntary organisations.
Separate hostels for working women with children up to 8 years have also been opened. But the need for such support services like child-care centres, and hostels, etc., is not adequately met. More and more schemes should be implemented on a priority basis so that women can contribute more effectively to the national wealth and productivity. New schemes should be undertaken to rehabilitate the poor and destitute women and their dependent children through vocational training and residential care. The National Commission for Women was set up in January, 1992 to monitor the matters relating to legal and Constitutional safeguards provided for women, to monitor the implementation of legislation made to protect the rights for women, to review the existing legislation concerning women and suggest amendments wherever required and to look into the complaints and take slow-motion notice of cases involving deprivation of the rights of women. Government has also introduced special legislations for protection of the interests of women.
These include Equal Remuneration Act, Maternity Benefit Act, Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, and Dowry Prohibition Act. There are many polytechnics and industrial training institutes exclusively for women. But these are hardly sufficient to meet the increasing number of women seeking training facilities in various trades and vocational courses. The need for increased number of such institutions for women is further underlined by the fact that there is rising unemployment among educated women and a great rush for white-collar jobs. To solve this problem of unemployment in educated women, they should be encouraged to start their factories, workshops and enterprises.
By giving liberal loans from banks and financial institutions, their self-employment opportunities can be further increased. For securing greater self-employment opportunities for women, they can be given preference in matters of granting licenses for industries and allotment of basic raw materials for small scale industries. Career development of women has now become an important matter as more and more women are joining the workforce. Initially they settled for professions like medicine, office jobs, and teaching, etc., but now they have entered sectors that are dominated by males at top and senior levels. According to the President of Women’s Forum, “Women are no longer satisfied with traditional stereotyped roles, and want to move up in the corporate hierarchy.
The aptitude, intelligence, education and skills of women have not been used and this is a great economic waste for the nation. Even from the monetary point of view, the female labour force constitutes an important reservoir of talent which is necessary for companies to use to remain competitive in the business world.” Today, there is greater career awareness among women and they want to march ahead, both in managing careers and families. With proper planning and implementation, the huge workforce of women can be suitably utilized in various sectors of management, entrepreneurship, industries, administration, and services for India’s better progress and development.
There are many employment opportunities and services yet to be explored and exploited for women. For example, women’s participation in our defence services, as in medical services, is long overdue. Indian women can as effectively contribute towards our national security, productivity and development as men.