It is a well-known fact that India’s economy faced a drastic blow during the COVID-19 initiated lockdowns. While this led to unemployment across various sectors, informal vocations, due to a lack of documentation and formal agreements, faced the brunt of this unemployment. This was further exacerbated for the female workforce, since they were shouldering responsibilities both within and outside of the domestic space – causing employers to dismiss an increased number of female workers, in comparison to males. Now, more than two years after the initiation of the COVID-19 induced lockdowns, economists have come to notice that India’s female workforce has declined sharply from 26% in 2010, and 19% in 2020, to a 9% in 2022.

Various general socio-economic factors both before and during the lockdowns played large roles in these declines. But I want to explore in this piece what particularly caused continuously plummeting numbers?

As discussed above, India’s economy and its potential to supply employment faced a sharp blow during the COVID-19 pandemic, and these numbers, while improving in a post-Covid world, are only growing slowly. This means that India, while attempting to return to its pre-pandemic status quo of providing jobs to its citizens, has still not reached its ideal positioning. And of course, due to underlying factors which have historically disadvantaged women, this slowly growing labour force is prioritising male workers who do not shoulder domestic responsibilities to the same degree as women.

It is my belief that key stakeholders such as the Government and private entities can do more to improve the employment situation, especially for women, eventually bringing back jobs for all who want to work outside the home. The steps that can be taken fall into these categories:

1. Policies – A small change in policies and the safeguarding of their implementation is one such way that the female workforce can be brought back across sectors. Policies should be designed in a manner that employers are compelled to hire a certain percentage of female employees in their workforce. These policies should be further strengthened by the aid of implementation bodies that can assure that these policies are being followed.

2. Transportation – A major impediment for many female workers is that they have to travel long distances to their work spaces. Mobility was a long-standing challenge to the female workforce prior to the lockdowns as well, and the obstacles of poor safety and the cost of travelling are only further bothersome in a post-covid world. To tackle this, Delhi’s state government has already eliminated fares for its female passengers in public transports across the union territory. Similar moves by other state governments can only improve the participation of female workers in the Indian economy.

By Anika Singi – Young Writers Series