When it comes to rejoining jobs after leaving them, it is men who far outnumber women — a factor that is lending strength to gender disparity in the workforce.
The payroll data released by the National Statistical Office shows only 18.67 per cent of those who rejoined and re-subscribed to the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) in June are women, a slight improvement from 18 per cent in April and 17.7 per cent in May.
The ratio has been improving over the years, but at a slow pace.
In comparison, 26.6 per cent of the fresh subscribers to the EPF in June are women, signalling that women freshers have a better chance to enter the job market than the ones who seek to rejoin.
Among the fresh EPF subscribers in June, the female ratio is the highest, 31.29 per cent, in the “more than 35 years” age category while it is the lowest, 23.47 per cent, in the 18-25 group.
The share of women in net payroll additions, which is calculated taking into account the new additions, the exits, and the return of old subscribers, was at 22.08 per cent in June as against 19.94 per cent in May.
These dismal numbers come in the wake of recent remarks by Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi while he inaugurated the 44th National Conference of Labour Ministers in Tirupati last week.
The PM spoke of the utility of remote workplace facilities like work from home and flexible work hours as a means to increase the women’s labour force participation.
“The need of the hour is flexible workplaces, work-from-home ecosystem and flexible work hours. We can utilise systems like a flexible workplace as an opportunity to increase women’s labour force participation. By making the right use of women power, India can achieve its goals faster,” the PM had said.
Modi’s remarks assume significance as India continues to have one of the lowest female labour force participation rates (LFPR) in the world.
Notwithstanding the marginal increase in the share of women subscribers on the EPF payrolls, according to the latest quarterly Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) report available, for the quarter January-March 2022, the estimated LFPR for females stood at 20.4 per cent against 25.1 per cent in FY21.
Female labour force participation has hovered at around 20 per cent for several decades now. Earlier, it was 22.8 per cent in FY20, a slow rise over 18.6 per cent in FY19 and 17.5 per cent in FY18.
This is significantly lower than female labour force participation in Bangladesh (35 per cent) and in Sri Lanka (31 per cent), according to the 2021 International Labour Organisation database.
The EPF is a mandatory savings scheme under the Employees’ Provident Funds and Miscellaneous Provisions Act, 1952. It is managed under the aegis of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO). It covers every establishment in which 20 or more are employed and certain other establishments that may be notified by the central government even if they employ fewer than 20 people, subject to certain conditions and exemptions in the Act.
The pay ceiling is Rs 15,000 per month. Those getting more than Rs 15,000 are exempt or can be enrolled with some permission or on a voluntary basis.
The number of members subscribing to this scheme gives an idea of the level of employment in the formal sector.