A World Economic Forum (WEF) study has found that companies in India experiencing the highest growth prefer hiring men and that technology-led job growth benefits men more than women. The study also found that while one in three companies preferred hiring men, only one in 10 companies said they wanted to hire more women.
The WEF “Future of Work in India” report prepared with the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) and released Friday also shows for jobs that are experiencing the highest growth, companies are hiring women at only 26 per cent. The study also found that women are entering the workforce at a slower rate than current female workforce participation.
The country’s female workforce participation – at a mere 27 per cent – stands 23 percentage points lower than the global average. Incidentally, the recent All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) shows that more women now go to college than men and there are as many women as there are men in undergraduate science programmes.
The WEF and ORF surveyed 770 companies, from micro-sized firms to those employing more than 25,000 workers, across four industries – textiles, banking and financial services, logistics and transportation, and retail – to understand how technology impacts the workforce.
The report takes into consideration worldwide concern that technology adoption may displace human workers, leading to jobless growth. The unresolved worry is especially ripe in India because of a sharp rise in life expectancy and a drop in fertility rate, expanding the working age population to 300 million more adults by 2040. Every year, 1.3 million young people enter the working-age population.
“Recent discussions around job displacement driven by technology adoption are furthering the sense of job scarcity and the idea that the few jobs available should go to men,” the report states. The findings indicate that there is overall technology-led job growth, but men are disproportionately reaping the benefits. While only 11 per cent of the companies surveyed stated they wanted to hire more women, 36 per cent of companies reported a preference for men.
The survey also found that currently, a third of the companies had no female employees, 71 per cent have fewer than 10 per cent female workers, and only 2.4 per cent have half or more females. The retail sector had the most companies with no female employees at 45 per cent, followed by transport and logistics at 36 per cent. Companies in both sectors also stated they prefer hiring men the most, at 43 and 48 per cent respectively.
The study also found that the workforce is trending toward independent, freelance and informal labour that, again, give men the advantage. Of the companies surveyed, 22 per cent will replace permanent workers with contract workers in the next five years.
According to the study, 75 per cent of freelancers are men, and men with ten to 20 years experience are paid 30 per cent more than their female counterparts. Less than a quarter of the companies provide maternity leave for permanent employees and 10 per cent for contract workers.
Also, the participation of women in freelance work declines with more career experience. Freelance work drops from 37 per cent for women with up to five years experience to 10 per cent for women with more than 10 years experience. The concept of informal work includes unpaid work of family members, which women participate in three times more than men. Sixty-six per cent of work by women is unpaid, while male work is 12 per cent unpaid.