The gender-pay gap, hard truths and actions needed

The gender-pay gap, hard truths and actions needed

The gender-pay gap, hard truths and actions needed

#GS-02 Social Justice

For Mains

What are the causes of pay gap based on gender:

  • There has been a disproportionate effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on women workers in terms of job and income losses.
  • Many women reverted to full-time care of children and the elderly during the pandemic, giving up on their career and ambitions.
  • International Labour Organization’s “Global Wage Report 2020–21” has suggested that the crisis inflicted massive downward pressure on wages and disproportionately affected women’s total wages compared to men.
  • While individual characteristics such as education, skills or experience are amongst the reasons for existing gender pay gap, a large part of the gender pay gap is still because of discrimination based on one’s gender or sex.


The current condition:

  • Indian women earned, on an average, 48% less compared to their male counterparts in 1993-94.
  • Since then, the gap declined to 28% in 2018-19 as in the labour force survey data of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO).
  • The pandemic reversed decades of progress as preliminary estimates from the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) 2020-21 show an increase in the gap by 7% between 2018-19 and 2020-21.
  • The data further suggests that faster decline in female wages during the pandemic contributed to this decline, compared to a faster growth in male wages, which requires urgent policy attention.
  • Gender-based discriminatory practices include: lower wages paid to women for work of equal value; undervaluation of women’s work in highly feminised occupations and enterprises, and motherhood pay gap — lower wages for mothers compared to non-mothers.


Why we need gender parity:

  • Full and productive economic growth requires a human-centred recovery from the pandemic, which will be made possible by improving women’s employment outcomes and reducing the gender pay gap.
  • UN Sustainable Development Goal 8 is “achieving full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including for young people and persons with disabilities and equal pay for work of equal value” by 2030.
  • Closing the gender pay gap is key to achieving social justice for working women, as well as economic growth for the nation.

What has been done:

  • The ILO has enshrined ‘equal pay for work of equal value’ in its Constitution and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
  • This provides an international legal framework for realising gender equality and addressing the intersecting forms of discrimination and vulnerabilities among women and girls.
  • The Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC), was launched in 2017 as a multi-stakeholder initiative led by the ILO, UN Women and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that seeks to achieve equal pay for women and men everywhere.
  • India is one of the pioneering countries to enact the Minimum Wages Act in 1948 and followed by the adoption of the Equal Remuneration Act in 1976.
  • India also carried out comprehensive reforms in both the legislation and enacted the Code on Wages in 2019.
  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) in 2005 benefited rural women workers and helped reduce the gender pay gap.
  • It raised the pay levels of women workers who participated in the programme, and women involved in agricultural occupations gained benefits since MGNREGA contributed to the rapid rise in overall rural and agricultural wages in the country.
  • In 2017, the Government amended the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961, which increased the ‘maternity leave with pay protection’ from 12 weeks to 26 weeks for all women working in establishments employing 10 or more workers.