After Savitri Devi and half of her colleagues lost their jobs in a garment factory in the Indian capital of New Delhi, she had been looking for work when sales plummeted when the coronavirus pandemic began last year.
The 44-year-old woman tried her luck many times near her home in O’Hera, but was unsuccessful. O’Hera is an industrial center with thousands of small factories and workshops. There were a lot of non-technical jobs for women. Engage in.
“I am going to cut my salary, but I don’t have a job,” Devi said outside her single-bedroom house in a slum of about 100 families, just a few kilometers from the office of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Union and industry leaders stated that Devi is one of approximately 15 million Indians, and the economic slowdown has dealt a disproportionate blow to women.
The majority of women employed in India are engaged in low-skilled jobs, such as farm and factory labor and domestic services, industries that have been hit by the pandemic.
This situation has become worse due to the expected slow economic recovery, thousands of factory closures and low vaccination rates, which has a greater impact on women. These factors are expected to undermine their efforts to return to work.
Amarjeet Kaur, secretary-general of the All India Trade Union Congress, one of India’s largest trade unions, said: “No matter what social and economic gains Indian women have made in the past ten years, basically during the COVID-19 pandemic. Have been obliterated.”
The second wave of the coronavirus pandemic is expected to aggravate the economic pressure on India, which has fallen into its worst recession in 70 years.
Since the vast majority of Indians work in the informal sector, it is difficult to accurately estimate the number of unemployed.
But in a country without a comprehensive welfare system or pandemic-related small business support, some industry bodies have reported widespread layoffs in the past year.
The Federation of Indian Industries (CIA), which represents more than 1 million small companies, says that women account for 60% of the unemployed.
A report from the Sustainable Employment Center of Azim Premji University found that 47% of women workers who were unemployed between March and December were permanently laid off before the second wave of the virus broke out in April.
In contrast, the proportion of male workers is about 7%, and many of them either return to their original jobs or engage in independent work such as selling vegetables.
Reuters interviewed more than 50 women from New Delhi, Gujarat in the industrial state and Tamil Nadu in the south. All of them have lost their jobs in small clothing factories, food processing plants, travel agencies and schools, causing them to cut back on food and clothing.
“We have reduced milk, vegetables, clothes… everything,” said Devi, who raised an unemployed son and an elderly mother with her day-time husband.
In O’Hera, where manufacturers of clothing, auto parts and food packaging are located, employers said their labor force has been almost halved due to reduced orders and rising input costs such as transportation and steel.
According to Chetan Singh Kohli, a printed material manufacturer and official of the Okhla Factory Owners Association, the auxiliary nature of the typical female role means that they are not a priority for reemployment.
He said: “Most female workers with lower wages in low-skilled categories such as packaging and assembly lines will be the last to be employed, because first, we want to restart operations.”
Manisha Kapoor, a think tank researcher at the Institute of Competitiveness in India, said that India’s informal service sector, including on-demand services such as transportation and food delivery, has been one of the few bright spots during the pandemic, but Mainly dominated by men.
“Those jobs in the informal sector are not jobs that women would do,” Kapoor said.
Kaur warned that it may take two to three years for women to return to work, if any, and urged the government to provide incentives to attract them back.
“Migrant workers who left their hometown with their families after losing their jobs are unlikely to return,” she said.
It is expected that India’s traditional family roles will further hinder women’s return to the labor market.
The ratio of housework between women and men in India is the highest in the world, and due to the pandemic, schools are still closed, and women take on most of the childcare work.
Earlier this year, 32-year-old Chineya Devi lost her job at a packaging company in Okhla. She said: “I have a job in a remote factory, but I can’t go because no one at home takes care of my children.”
Many women interviewed by Reuters emphasized the damage to their self-esteem caused by unemployment, leading to physical and mental health problems.
“The men or government officials in our family will never understand the impact of unemployment on women,” said Ritu Gupta, who owns a kindergarten in Najafgarh on the outskirts of New Delhi, which has been closed for more than a year.
“I find it worthless to sit at home. This is not just a loss of money, but the whole meaning of my life.”