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In-Depth Jobs


Issue no 49, 4-10 March 2023

Empowering Women

Encouraging Work From Home

 

Ranjana Singh

 

Women work force participation is a driver of a country’s growth and therefore, participation rate indicates its potential to grow more rapidly. As emphasised by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in his recent remarks at the Labour Ministers' Conference, “the Government of India is mulling a strategy for populari-sing flexible workplaces, a work-from-home ecosystem and flexible work hours, which can be used as opportunities for en-couraging women's labour force participation.”

India's Employment and Labour Force Participation Trends: According to the latest Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), labour markets have recovered beyond pre-COVID levels, in both urban and rural India, with unemployment rates decreasing from 5.8 % in 2018-19 to 4.2 % in 2020-21. The Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR), Worker Population Ratio (WPR) and Unemployment Rate (UR) in PLFS 2020-21 (July-June) have improved for both males and females in both rural and urban areas compared to PLFS 2019- 20 and 2018-19. The Labour Force Participation Rate for males has gone up to 57.5% in 2020-21, as compared to 55.6% in 2018-19. The overall Labour Force Participation Rate for females has gone up to 25.1% in 2020-21 from 18.6% in 2018-19. There is a notable rise in rural female Labour Force Participation Rate from 19.7 % in 2018-19 to 27.7% in 2020-21. Despite the positive outlook on employment, the gender disparity in labour force participation is persistent and this can be largely attributed to the numerous sociocultural barriers faced by the female population. These barriers are deeply rooted in traditional gender roles, cultural beliefs and social norms, and pose significant challenges for women seeking to pursue professional careers. Though at the policy level, a lot of work has been done in terms of ensuring gender equity in employment opportunities, the lack of work-life balance continues to be a persistent barrier that women in India face when trying to build a career. Women are often expected to take on the majority of domestic responsibilities, including childcare and household chores, which can make it difficult for them to balance their personal and professional lives. This can be particularly challenging for women in jobs that require long working hours and significant time for commuting. Meanwhile, the pandemic has prompted many changes in the scenario with many organisations re-evaluating the role of the traditional office, as employees have become more accustomed to remote work and businesses have realised the potential cost savings of reducing their physical footprint. This has led to a shift towards more flexible, hybrid workplaces that combine remote and inperson work, and a greater focus on creating collaborative spaces that support creativity and innovation. This transition is being billed as a boon for women.

Emerging Workplace Trends

Increased focus on employee well-being: The pandemic has highlighted the importance of supporting employee well-being, both physical and mental. Many organisations have introduced new programs and benefits to help employees stay healthy and connected while working remotely, such as virtual fitness classes, mental health resources, and online social events.

Emphasis on digital transformation: The pandemic has also accelerated the pace of digital transformation in many industries, as businesses have had to quickly adapt to the new reality of remote work and online interactions. This has led to the adoption of new technologies and the development of new digital products and services to meet changing employee and customer needs.

Remote work: The pandemic has accelerated the trend of remote work, with many employees now working from home on a full-time or part-time basis.

Flexible work arrangements: Many businesses have also adopted more flexible work arrangements to accommodate the challenges of the pandemic, such as offering part-time schedules, job sharing, or flexible start and end times. This has helped to reduce the stress on employees who are juggling work with other responsibilities, such as caring for children or elderly family members.

Benefits of Work From Home (WFH)

Improved work-life balance: By working from home, women have greater control over their work-life balance, which can lead to reduced stress and improved well-being.

Foster more equality: Regardless of your individual background or living arrangements, in the event that such factors do not impact your work performance or overall output, your professional colleagues will no longer be influenced by said variables in their perception of you. This newfound ability to be regarded as an equal amongst peers is a significant achievement.

Enhanced job satisfaction: Studies have shown that WFH can increase job satisfaction, and this is particularly true for women who may face additional barriers to career advancement, such as discrimination or bias.

Greater flexibility: WFH allows women to have greater flexibility in their work schedule, which can be particularly beneficial for those with caregiving responsibilities, such as caring for children or elderly family members.

Saving on commuting time: Without the need to commute to a physical workplace, women can save time and money on transportation, and have more time to dedicate to work or other activities

Increased job opportunities: WFH has opened up new job opportunities, especially in industries that were previously less accessible to women, such as technology or remote customer service

Opportunities for the marginalised: The advent of remote working opportunities within companies has enabled the possibility of collaborating with individuals residing in disparate geographical locations. This novel paradigm offers potential avenues for enhanced diversity and comprehension within the virtual workplace, as historically marginalised factions now possess the potential to flourish within a more egalitarian and inclusive environment.

WFH Opportunities for Women: In the employment landscape across sectors, there are a very few domains where women are categorically considered unsuitable. Conversely, in all other spheres, female participation is deemed acceptable but limited, owing to the manifold obstacles that women encounter when seeking work outside the domestic sphere. Thus, the prospects for remote work for women are not lacking per se; however, the availability of optimal opportunities depends upon an individual's skills, experience, and predilections. Nonetheless, there are some general domains in which women may locate work from home opportunities, such as:

Freelancing: Freelancing offers a lot of flexibility and the opportunity to work on project basis. Women can find freelancing opportunities in writing, graphic design, web development, social media management, and many other fields.

Virtual assistant: Virtual assistants provide administrative support to businesses and individuals remotely. This can include tasks such as scheduling appointments, managing emails, and data entry.

Teaching and tutoring: With the rise of online education, women can find opportunities to teach or tutor students from around the world in a variety of subjects.

Sales and marketing: Many companies are hiring remote sales and marketing professionals to help promote their products and services online.

IT and technical roles: Women with technical skills can find remote opportunities in software development, database management, network administration, and other technical role.

Consulting: Women with expertise in a particular field can offer consulting services to businesses remotely.

Writing and editing: Women who enjoy writing or editing can find work from home opportunities in content creation, copywriting, and proof-reading. The work from home opportunities are not only limited to women in urban setup. Women in rural India too possess a wide range of skills that are often overlooked and undervalued. While there has been notable progress in terms on women's education in most of rural India, even the uneducated women in rural India have skill sets that are often through their daily activities and responsibilities including farming, cooking, cleaning, child care, sewing, mending etc.

Handicrafts and artisanal work: Rural women in India have a long history of creating beautiful handicrafts and artisanal items such as pottery, embroidery, weaving, and basketry. They can sell their products locally or online through e-commerce platforms.

Food processing: Rural women can set up small-scale food processing units at home to make products like pickles, jams, and chutneys. They can then sell these products locally or through online marketplaces.

Agri-businesses: Rural women can also earn income starting small-scale agriculturerelated business, such as mushroom cultivation, honey production, etc.

Home-based childcare: Rural women can provide homebased childcare services to working parents in their community.

Sewing and tailoring: Women can start home-based sewing and tailoring business and offer their services to customers in their community or online.

Beauty and wellness services: Rural women can provide beauty and wellness services like hair cutting, massage, and beauty treatments from their home setup.

Online freelancing: Women in rural areas, who are educated but are unable to take up full time jobs, can pursue successful career in online tutoring, content creation, consultancy, freelance writing, etc.

Self Employment and Small Scale Businesses: Self-employment and small scale business also provide ample opportunities for earning while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. One of the biggest advantages of selfemployment is the flexibility it offers. Self-employed women can set their own hours and work from anywhere. When you're self-employed, you have greater control over your career path. You can design your work around your life rather than the other way around. This can lead to a better work-life balance and less stress. Moreover, many women find that self-employment is more fulfilling than working for someone else. By building their own businesses, they can create something meaningful and achieve personal and professional growth. As a self-employed woman, you have more autonomy and control over your work. You can make your own decisions and be your own boss. Additionally, it provides an opportunity to pursue your passions and interests. You can turn your hobbies and interests into a business and make a living doing what you love. The Government of India has several schemes and programs aimed at empowering rural women and providing them with training and support to start their own businesses. These programs can provide financial assistance, training, and networking opportunities to help rural women succeed in their chosen field. Some examples are:

Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY): This scheme provides skill training to individuals, including women, to improve their employability and income.

Mahila Coir Yojana: This scheme provides training and employment opportunities to women in the coir industry. It aims to improve the socioeconomic status of women by promoting the use of coir products.

STEP (Support to Training and Employment Programme for Women): This scheme provides training and employment opportunities to women, particularly those who are socially and economically disadvantaged. It aims to enhance the employability of women and enable them to become self-reliant.

Nai Roshni: This scheme provides training to women in areas such as leadership, health and hygiene, financial literacy, and legal rights. It aims to empower women to become agents of change in their communities.

Udyogini: This scheme provides entrepreneurship training and support to women to enable them to start and manage their own businesses. It aims to promote women's economic empowerment and contribute to economic growth.

Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana: This scheme provides loans to micro and small enterprises, including those owned by women. It aims to enable women to start their own businesses and become selfreliant.

Financial assistance schemes: Banks and financial institutions offer schemes that aim to boost women entrepreneurship.

How to Build a Successful WFH Career: Here are some steps you can take to upskill and become eligible for good and highly paying work from home opportunities:

Identify the skills in demand: Do some research on the current trends in the job market and identify the skills that are in high demand for work from home jobs. Some examples may include digital marketing, data analysis, web development, and programming.

Assess your current skills: Evaluate your current skills and knowledge to identify your strengths and weaknesses. This can help you understand which skills you need to work on to be more competitive in the job market.

Identify gaps: After assessing your skills, identify the gaps between your current skill set and the skills in demand. This can help you focus on the skills you need to improve.

Take online courses and certifications: Look for online courses and certifications that can help you acquire the skills you need.

Build a portfolio: To showcase your skills to potential employers, build a portfolio that demonstrates your abilities. This could include examples of work you have done, such as websites you have built, articles you have written, or social media campaigns you have managed.

Network: Build a professional network by joining relevant online groups, attending virtual events, and connecting with professionals in your industry. This can help you stay up-todate on industry trends and connect with potential employers.

Apply for relevant jobs: Once you have acquired the necessary skills and built your portfolio, start applying for work from home jobs that align with your skills and interests. Don't be afraid to start with entry-level positions and work your way up.

(The author is an educationist and career counsellor. She can be reached at reach.ranjanas@gmail.com)

Views expressed are personal