India’s policies to empower women take centre stage at G20 meet

The second day of the G20 Employment Working Group (EWG) meeting here on Friday started with a special session dedicated to the follow-up of the implementation of commitments made during India’s G20 presidency which includ the need to develop an international reference classification of occupations and skills and the empowerment of women at the workplace.

India highlighted the need for G20 countries to work for the incorporation of basic and extended indicators in respective national surveys for mapping global skills gaps as this would benefit developed, developing and least developed nations alike.

India’s Secretary, Labour & Employment, Sumita Dawra said that the first step towards realization of the long awaited global skill harmonisation has been taken with ILO and OECD having prepared the draft terms of reference of the feasibility study for international reference classification. The feasibility study, spanning two years, will include a pilot in select sectors, including IT, care and green sectors.

Further sessions were held on critical issues of the impact of care policies and equal pay in promotion of gender equality in the world of work were deliberated upon at the forum. The EWG acknowledged the challenges faced by women due to disproportionate caregiving responsibilities and the necessity of supportive care policies.

India’s proactive approach and steps in this direction were highlighted:

  • A Time Use Survey was conducted for the first time in the nation in 2019 to understand the distribution of paid and unpaid activities among genders.
  • The Palna Scheme provides quality day care facilities for children of working women.
  • The Code on Social Security 2020 aims at extending social security benefits to gig and platform workers including women.
  • Increase in paid maternity leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks and mandatory crèche facility in establishments having 50 or more employees.
  • Provision in labour laws for work from home for such period and on such conditions mutually agreed by employer and workers, especially women.

Another key agenda taken up was the issue of pay disparity between genders. The Indian delegation enunciated the government’s efforts which have aided in the notable decrease in the gender pay gap in India.

  • The newly enacted Code on Wages, 2019 aims at eliminating discrimination in matters related to conditions of work in addition to the matters of recruitment and pay, thereby, building on the existing Equal Remuneration Act, 1976.
  • There are schemes like Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana, Stand-Up India, etc for providing women access to collateral free subsidised credit and seed money to set up or scale up their own enterprises.
  • Skill India Mission endeavours to equip women with market-relevant skills to bridge the learning-to-livelihood gap and the gender pay gap. Several initiatives taken aim to promote change and tackle societal barriers, which eventually encourages pay parity at the workplace.
  • Today, over 78.6 per cent of women own bank accounts that they themselves use, which is an improvement by 25 per cent over last 5 years.
  • India has made notable progress in closing the gender pay gap over time and in in 2022 , equal match fees for both male and female centrally contracted Indian cricket team players was implemented.
  • MGNREGA implementation is helping in the reduction of the gender pay gap, both directly and indirectly.

The meeting concluded with comprehensive discussions on equality in the world of work. It was emphasised that equality is an economic necessity not just a moral obligation.

On this issue, India’s multifaceted approach to enhancing female participation in the workforce on an equal footing was highlighted. Legislative and schematic interventions, such as the National Education Policy 2020, Skill India Mission, and schemes for women in STEM fields, were elucidated.

The government’s historic move to reserve one-third of seats for women in the House of People (Lok Sabha) and in the State Legislative Assemblies in 2023 and efforts to increase women’s representation in armed and police forces were well received by the forum.

There was a strong reiteration of the collective resolve of the G20 countries to continue working towards advancing gender equality, diversity at the workplace and social security.

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