Discrimination in India causes 100 per cent of employment inequality faced by women in rural areas in the labour market and 98 per cent in urban areas, according to the latest Oxfam India report.
Apart from women, historically oppressed communities such as Dalits and Adivasis, along with religious minorities such as Muslims, also continue to face discrimination in accessing jobs, livelihoods, and agricultural credits, said the India Discrimination Report 2022.
The report said that in rural areas, the sharpest increase of 17 per cent in unemployment was for Muslims compared to non-Muslims during the first quarter of the Covid-19 pandemic making the rural Muslim unemployment rate 31.4 per cent.
Highlighting that women in India, despite their same educational qualifications and work experience, face discrimination as compared to men in the labour market due to societal and employers’ prejudices.
The lower wages for salaried women are due to 67 percent of discrimination and 33 percent due to lack of education and work experience.
Calling on the Indian government to actively enforce effective measures for the protection and right to equal wages and work for all women, Oxfam India said the participation of women should be incentivised in the workforce, including enhancements in pay, upskilling, job reservations and easy return-to-work options after maternity.
“Discrimination in the labour market is when people with identical capabilities are treated differently because of their identity or social backgrounds. There have been minimal attempts to measure the extent of discrimination and its impact on the lives of marginalised communities in India so far,” said Amitabh Behar, CEO of Oxfam India.
For the report, Oxfam India conducted an extensive analysis of government data on employment and labour from 2004 to 2020 to understand the inequality and discrimination regarding access to jobs, income, health and agricultural credits across the country.
“What the report finds is if a man and woman start on an equal footing, the woman will be discriminated in the economic sphere where she will lag in regular/salaried, casual and self-employment. The inequality in the labour market for gender and other social categories, the report finds, is not just due to poor access to education or work experience. Still, because of discrimination,” Behar said.
The findings of the Oxfam report indicate discrimination as a driving factor behind the low Women’s Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) in the country.
Quoting the Union Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI), the report said LFPR for women in India was only 25.1 per cent in 2020-21 for urban and rural women, which was 42.7 per cent in 2004-05, thus showing the withdrawal of women from the workforce despite rapid economic growth during the same period.
This is considerably lower than Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa as per the latest World Bank estimates.
The report also highlighted the discrimination faced by SC/ST and Muslims in accessing jobs.
It said that the mean income for Scheduled Castes (SCs) or Scheduled Tribes (STs) persons in urban areas who are regularly employed is Rs. 15,312 against Rs. 20,346 for persons belonging to the general category. This means the general category is earning 33 per cent more than SCs or STs, the report said.
Caste also acts as a significant barrier while accessing credit for agriculture despite many agricultural labourers from SC or ST communities.
Muslims continue to face multidimensional challenges in accessing salaried jobs and income through self-employment compared to non-Muslims.
15.6 per cent of the urban Muslim population aged 15 and above were engaged in regular salaried jobs, whereas 23.3 per cent of non-Muslims were in regular salaried jobs in 2019-20, the report added.