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What Privatisation can do to Women Empowerment?

Thanks to Google for the data and information that made this blog possible.

Ever since our Government came up with their firm proposal of privatising its firms to cash it up for the economy, my mind never stopped thinking about its repercussions to the nation. One aspect which I felt holds a significant impact due to this privatisation would be the decline in women empowerment. I have this whole blog to convince my side of the argument; however, let me begin with the statistics I happen to collect from the internet world.

  • Women account for only 19.9% of the total labour force in India. When India was boasting to be the world’s fastest-growing major economy in 2017, it failed to notice that India’s female labour force participation rates (FLFPR) fell to their lowest level this time since Independence, with only parts of the Arab world being lesser.

  • Speaking of the gender wage gap, the female wage is 60-65% of the male salary since the last three decades for performing the same work.

  • In FY20, only six of the top 250 companies' CEO are women, out of which three are founders or belong to the family of promoters. Sixty per cent of women in India in the productive age bracket of 15-59 years are engaged in full-time housework.

  • Only 3.7% of CEOs and Managing Directors of NSE-listed companies were women in 2019.

  • Only 8.9% of firms have women in top management positions. As of 2019, just 29 companies (5.8%) on the Fortune India 500 list had women in executive roles. Women account for only 13.8% of board directors from listed companies in India.

  • In 2019, India elected women to fill 78 of the 542 seats in the lower house of parliament, a record high. However, at only 14.4%, the country remains far from parity.

Why is privatisation overrated?

I want to restrict this blog to women’s empowerment and hence do not want to delve into the evils of privatisation much.

However, when someone tells me that private firms operate efficiently, unlike any other government firms, I feel like answering them that they are made to work efficiently for one single person who stands to gain everything out of it. I admit he gives the job to people but stands to gain more than the nation and its people.

What is the point of having excellently functioning private firms while they end up making individuals billionaires and trillionaires? What does the nation stand to gain from it with those billionaires who at the most can pay their taxes or sponsor the political campaign rally? There are exceptions, and exceptions can never be stereotyped.

If there is one industry that has seen more women’s participation recently, it would be the IT industry. However, the IT sector also exhibits a mixed picture in terms of a gendered environment. By 2011, HCL, Wipro and Infosys had about one-fourth to one-third women workforce, but few in leadership positions.

At Infosys, for instance, only 4.8 per cent were at the senior management level. Further, there is a gender pay gap at all levels, lowest for 3–5 years’ experience level and highest for 6–10 years of experience. A study even states that a large proportion of women tend to exit from the industry after the first five years of employment.

The perspective of a private firm.

A typical interview for a female candidate in a private firm is way different from his male counterpart. While for a male, his skill and qualification alone count, for a female, her marital status, motherhood, and family situation also matters.

Today, women in India spend up to 352 minutes per day on domestic work, 577% more than men (52 minutes). A women’s decision to work is deeply influenced by her family, marital, educational and social status.

Continuing to work is a daily choice – which is rarely made by women alone. Therefore, to bring more women into the labour force and prevent them from dropping out of work, there is a need for targeted interventions by all relevant stakeholders – the Government, private sector, media and civil society.

How can whole privatisation / Neoliberalism policies affect the lives of working women?

Imagine living in a democratic socialist society where all your basic needs are guaranteed to be met. Your Government makes sure you have access to things like healthcare, higher education, and decently paid jobs. It can also help you out with something like housing, transportation, and food. And if you have a child, you can enjoy paid parental leave or state-funded childcare.

Now take all of those things away. Welcome to neoliberalism. Unless you’re rich, it stinks in many ways – especially if you’re a woman and particularly if you’re a mother. And unfortunately, this is a feature of the system, not a bug.

The key message here is: Neoliberal capitalism benefits from women doing unpaid care work.

The neoliberal system gets the benefit of millions of women doing the difficult care-work of raising children and thereby providing it with its future workforce – all without that system having to shell out a single dime.

Imagine you’re an employer trying to decide how much money to offer a new employee, who happens to be a woman. Now, see how dependable a worker she’d be in the future. You could base your offer on that information—the more dependable, the higher your offer – the less dependable, the lower.

You’ll probably end up making assumptions based on the candidate’s demographic traits. You know that women are statistically more likely to quit their jobs than men due to childbirth.

So, you end up assuming that any given woman is more likely to quit her job than any given man – regardless of whether the particular woman in question actually has any plans to have a child. This lowers your estimate of her dependability, which in turn will tend to lower the amount of money you’ll pay her.

This then leads to a vicious cycle. Since women are paid less than men on average, they are more likely to quit their jobs if they give birth. Her male partner earns more money than she does; it will make more financial sense for her to quit her job and take care of their child than him. This further entrenches the perception that women are more likely to quit their jobs, leading to women being paid even less on average. And, of course, that also further entrenches women’s economic dependence on men.

Women who return to work after having kids usually do so after an extended period away. Now, if you’ve ever had a job in a busy office, you know how hard it can be to catch up on your assignments and get back into the swing of things if you miss even a single day of work. Multiply that by weeks or months.

And now, take all of that and factor in the double burden that many working moms carry. They finish their jobs and then go home to do their second, unpaid job: being the primary caregiver. Yes, some men share the burden or even take on this role themselves, but on average, women do much more of raising children than men.

But that’s not all. If the child gets sick and has to go home from daycare, guess which parent will probably have to leave work and pick him up? And if the child wakes up in the middle of the night, guess who’s probably going to be trying to work with no sleep the next day? Yes, sometimes it will be the father, but statistically, it’s much more likely to be the mother.

Understandably, many mothers end up getting burned out upon returning to their jobs after having kids. As a result, the quality of their work might suffer, and they might even quit. And when either of those things happens, it provides employers with further reinforcement of their perception that women are less dependable than men, leading to further statistical discrimination.

The key message here is: Neoliberalism forces people to fend for themselves, which puts women at a disadvantage.

Neoliberalism is like free-market capitalism on steroids. Under neoliberalism, the Government tries to put as much of the economy under the control of private enterprises as possible. In practice, this means privatising state-run industries, reducing regulations, cutting back on funding to public services and social welfare programs, completely shutting down those services and programs, or simply not creating them in the first place.

Usually, a neoliberal government will do some combination of these things. For instance, it might turn its energy industry over to private oil companies, remove regulations from the financial sector, reduce its funding to public education, and avoid creating a public healthcare system.

The end result is that people are left at the mercy of private employers and market forces. For women, this has many negative consequences. For instance, let’s say you’re a woman who works for a company that doesn’t provide paid maternity leave. That’s perfectly legal and often the case in highly neoliberal countries. Meanwhile, you probably won’t have access to government-subsidised, let alone fully paid-for, daycare.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Without strong government intervention in the economy, problems like the pay gap and statistical discrimination continue to make women less equal to men. This, in turn, makes many of them economically dependent on male partners since it tends to make men the primary income earners.

We can’t just sit around and hope those private enterprises will “do the right thing.” Once again, the statistics speak for themselves: on average, private enterprises don’t fix the problems of gender inequality and discrimination when left to their own devices. Whether it’s the pay gap or the lack of women in leadership positions, all of these issues persist until Government intervenes.

However, this requires a government that’s willing to intervene. Neoliberal capitalism benefits from women doing unpaid care work.

Govt has no business to be in business, really?

Every citizen is Government’s business. If their privatisation policy hinders the life of its citizen, they have to come out to take action. Women’s participation in a country’s economy is crucial, and it cannot happen without the Government's active role.

  • Government should right away set policies for women's work conditions, and pay for private firms too.

  • Set course-wise gender-based targets for skill training under Skill India's mission to ensure women’s participation across job roles to meet industry requirements

  • Provide matching grants to micro, small and medium enterprises to finance women’s maternity leave

  • Increase quantum of allocation for programs targeted at women under the Gender Budget from the present 1% of GDP

  • Expand focus from just having quantitative targets on the number of women hired to mainstreaming women across all job roles

We are living in 2021 and yet speaking for women’s rights is a shame. With a country of billions, I am sure every women’s upliftment will raise not only the life of her family but also her nation.

Note: For more on Women and Financial Literacy , you can visit

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