Automation and Female Employment in India: What does the Number Reveal?

Automation and female employment the future of work, analyses how the march impacts women’s employment

While the report speaks of a global trend of women facing a slightly lower risk of losing their jobs than men due to the latter’s employment in the roles requiring physical labor that is easily automated, India presents as a bit of a corner case. For instance, only 16% of job losses are expected to stem from automation and female employment


Further, unlike the other countries studied, in India, healthcare—a sector likely to be less impacted by automation—is not dominated by women. In a fast-paced world where automation and artificial intelligence are being adopted by multiple organizations, the effect on female employment must be tracked and critically analyzed.


Automation can be full (where a machine tends to replace manual labor) as well as partial (where instead of replacing, machines change the job in meaningful ways.) Women and men are affected differently by automation and female employment and according to a report, it will shift the labor market drastically by 2030.


 As a result of this women may have a hard time coping due to various constraints faced by them. This article talks about how women must transform their skills to keep up with the changing job landscape, especially in India. 


Gendered Job Losses due to automation: 


It is estimated that up to 12 million in India could risk losing their jobs to automation and female employment by 2030. A majority of India’s female workforce is absorbed in the primary sector. Over 60 percent of female jobs in the agriculture sector would lead to a 28 percent loss of jobs for women i.e approximately 4 million women involved in agriculture, fisheries, and forestry risk losing their jobs followed by craft and related trade work (3 million) and warehousing (2 million).


India’s problem escalates due to the low representation of females in sectors other than agriculture, which is expected to lose a significant number of jobs– 45 percent of total job losses compared to 26 percent for men. As a result, many women leave the labor force entirely. Despite relatively large job displacement in agriculture, men have higher representation in other sectors to redeem these losses. By 2030, the maximum gains in jobs for men would be in the medium wage bracket whereas for women it will be in the high wage category. High-paying jobs for women could potentially narrow the wage gap, but this is only possible if women can make the “transition” by developing new skills.


It is also predicted that there will be jobs gained in different sectors. About 74 percent of net jobs gained in India will be in sectors such as manufacturing (11 million), accommodation and food services (2 million), retail and wholesale (1 million), and construction (3 million). The rate of automation and female employment in emerging economies like India is expected to be slower, as compared to mature economies.


Education, Mobility, and Access to technology as barriers to employment:


There has been little or no progress in facilitating women to transition to sectors with higher potential, such as manufacturing and tourism. Almost three-fourths of vocational courses taken up by Indian women pertain to sectors such as textiles, healthcare, beauty, and Information Technology (IT). To have a successful movement in enabling skills in rural women, rural initiatives, and ease of mobility need to be focused upon.


As jobs are lost and gained, there will be a “transition” to different sectors, which would require a completely new skill set to be adopted. Even with a slightly larger threat of automation for men (21 percent versus 20 percent for women), advantage can be taken from this shift in the job market by developing vital skills that will be in demand due to flexibility, mobility, and ease of access. This is where women, especially those in the rural areas are cornered by various social and economic barriers.


In India, it will be crucial for women engaged in agriculture to reskill themselves, as demand for labor with less than secondary education is likely to decline. The requirement of access to technology and knowledge is unattainable for many as education rates of females in India for automation and female employment are lower than their male counterparts. 


The number of women who entered the workforce at entry-level was only 25 percent of jobs from total graduates (43 percent). It is hence becoming more important for women to complete their education and gain entry into the workforce thereafter. Apart from education gaps, mobility is one of the many problems as women face the peril of physically traveling safely to their workplace and back, curtailing their movement. 


Women also devotes a substantial amount of their time doing unpaid care work— Estimated more than 1.1 trillion hours a year, versus less than 400 billion hours for men. Furthermore, Domestic work is also taken up largely by women, where they spend 352 minutes per day on it, 577 percent more than men (52 minutes) which leads to a “double burden” of work, i.e. working for pay and working unpaid at home.

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