India’s gender pay gap

The gender pay gap in India refers to women getting paid lower than their male counterparts despite doing the same work. Though policymakers and activists are trying to close the gap, equal pay for women is yet to be achieved as unequal pay between men and women continues to exist.

When you consider the gender pay gap, you will come across two separate numbers – the unadjusted pay gap and the adjusted pay gap. While the former distinguishes the median and mean wages of the two genders, the latter considers various factors triggering the pay differences, such as education, occupation, and job experience.

Thus, when you take into account the unadjusted figure, you will notice that the difference between the genders is starker. 

Does Gender Pay Gap In India Really Exist?

Yes, this question does get asked!

And yes, pay disparity among the genders does exist.

There are many people, including a few in the top rungs of companies, who are the decision-makers and prefer turning a blind eye to the widening pay disparity in the country. It’s true that they may not admit it publicly but when it comes to framing the policies and executing vital decisions, the seals of approval they give to certain things ultimately contribute to the unequal pay between genders.

Don’t believe it? Trust me because I have interviewed quite a few women employees at diverse stages in their careers and working at companies “that shall not be named” vouching for the absence of equal pay for equal work.

Apart from the blatant inequality in salaries, the gender pay gap in organised sectors is also reflected in some other ways. For instance, despite women earning decent pay consistently in such sectors, the chance and space they have for negotiations could be pretty limited compared to their male colleagues.

Additionally, the number of women who finally become eligible for higher promotions with improved pay packages could be just a few. If you thought the absence of wage equality between genders exists just in the corporate domain, think again.

It’s present in the unorganised sector as well!

In the unorganised sector, especially in rural areas, dictated by contract-intensive labour, women are often given comparatively lesser opportunities and much lower wages than men handling the same tasks. However, for many of these women with low or no education, who have to handle the burden of managing their households, there’s no other way but to accept whatever pay is on offer to make ends meet.

Corporate offices and other swanky workplaces can give their employees the opportunity to work online and even get some financial backups during unforeseen circumstances like when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. However, the unorganised paid employment sector lacks such facilities, which further corners the women employed in this sector and forces them to accept inequitable pay, which widens the wage gap further.

What’s the Extent of the Wage Gap in India?

The wage gap between genders in India is among the widest in the world. According to the Global Gender Gap Report 2021, women, on average, were paid 21% (or almost one-fifth) of the income of men.

According to the World Inequality Report 2022, men in India earn 82% of the labour income while the share of women’s earnings stands at a mere 18%.

In an ideal world where the gender pay gap, as well as the gender gap, doesn’t exist, women would have earned 50% of all labour incomes. However, in 30 years, progress to close the gender pay gap at the global level has been awfully slow. In India, the story revolving around the gender gap just gets darker, thanks to the widening wage gap between genders.

What Contributes to Gender Pay Gap in the Country

Earning disparity in India is a result of socio-cultural norms, systemic biases, and low representation of women in the workplace.

There was a time when Indian society didn’t allow its women to achieve economic independence and security. Though we have left those harrowing times behind, several socio-cultural norms still hold women, including women senior executives, back from achieving their true potential at work.

Family responsibilities, raising a child, and caring for elderly parents and/or in-laws are just some of the matters that are still the primary responsibilities of women. To manage these duties and responsibilities, women employees may take breaks (say, during childbirth) or sabbaticals (perhaps to care for elderly in-laws).

But when they rejoin the workforce, they have already lost a couple of years of experience and pay increases during that period. This is one of the prime reasons behind the differences in pay between men and women workers.

Additionally, women have to face the brunt of systemic biases such as male bias attitudes, discrimination due to their marital status, etc. As a result, they are positioned unfavourably when newer and bigger work-related responsibilities, career growth and development opportunities, and pay raises are up for grabs.

The low representation of women at work, especially in the management with decision-making power, is another crucial factor that contributes to the gender pay gap and the absence of gender equality. Global data indicates a positive association between women being represented on the board and the availability of flexible working plans such as WFH (work-from-home) or remote work options.

Companies with greater gender board diversity seem more likely to have fair and equal recruitment and pay policies as well as focus more on employee well-being initiatives.

Another salient factor, which many believe contributes to the gender-based wage gap, is attributed to the choice of majors. It’s noticed that science and economics majors are likely to dominate higher-paying occupations, and women in India are significantly outnumbered by men in these majors.

Gender gaps in financial literacy, unequal career progression trajectories, and certain life events that usually influence women’s participation in paid work can also give rise to wage gaps.

Final Words

To bridge the gender pay gap in India, help women advance, and attract more women to the labour force, employers need to implement fair pay practices. They should also standardize performance reviews for both male and female employees by removing conscious and unconscious biases.

Facilitating the career growth of women professionals and correcting the pay scale differences amongst their existing employees are other crucial steps top management teams need to take. What other steps do you think will be instrumental in closing this wage gap?

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