Despite an illustrious career, American soccer player and Olympian Megan Rapinoe has been devalued and paid abysmally low as compared to her male counterparts. Speaking on the occasion of Equal Pay Day at the White House in the presence of President Joe Biden, the award-winning athlete highlighted the overall pay disparity between men and women. Rapinoe is also one of the major figures behind the 2019 gender discrimination lawsuit against the US Soccer Federation, parts of which relating to unequal pay have been dismissed and is currently being appealed.
While there is progress, it is moving at a snail’s pace compared to the trajectory that women have been leading in different fields. Closer to home, the trek towards equal pay for Indian women is proving to be a much more challenging climb.
Therevealed that Indian women are paid 19% less than their male counterparts. The gap further widens with a difference of 20-30% for highly skilled occupations. A look at our own athletes reveals the magnitude in deviation. As , Grade A women players receive Rs 50 lakh while Grade A men’s cricketers draw Rs 5 crore with the top bracket men cricketers in the A+ category earning Rs 7 crore. In agriculture, which is a livelihood for a majority of Indians, for general agricultural labourers were Rs 264.05 for men and Rs 205.32 for women. Hence, women workers in the sector earned 22.24 per cent less than men.
Indicative of other industries as well, India ranked a lowly 112th out of 153 countries in the annual for 2020 and even lower at 149 in terms of economic participation and opportunity for women. Not only do women in India have to fight for a seat at the metaphorical table, but even when they’re there, they’re not being equally compensated for their efforts.
The pandemic fallout
According to the , there exists a 31.4% average gender gap that remains to be closed globally. India has shown improvement in with women’s participation in the labour force rapidly gaining momentum compared to past decades.
Now well over a year into the Covid-19 pandemic, several studies have shown that women have been disproportionately affected by its impact on the workforce.
In November last year, it was found that 6.7 million women had been displaced from the labour force since the lockdown. The labour force had shrunk by 13% for women but just 2% for men, . These figures do not reflect positively for women workers who already bear the brunt of discrimination, uninformed and unsupportive policies along with disbalanced household responsibilities amongst other challenges in both the organised and unorganied sectors.
In the absence of any clear policies on dealing with the impact of Covid-19 on the female workforce, it is evident that the pandemic will inevitably result in a widening of the gender gap due to entrenched biases and inequities built into society.
Any interventions being designed to improve the financial and employment situation for women must also extend to those in unorganised or informal sectors with an emphasis on those residing in rural areas. For instance, frontline women workers, especially ASHA workers and healthcare employees have proven to be the backbone of the efforts that helped India navigate Covid-19. Therefore, steps must be taken in the right direction to ensure that women across industries continue to be adequately supported through better wages and working conditions.
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)