IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


27th October, 2023 Social Issues

Copyright infringement not intended

Picture Courtesy: blog.vantagecircle.com

Context: The Periodic Labour Force Surveys (PLFS) have been monitoring the gender earnings gap and associated factors from April-June 2019 to 2023, with a focus on weekly hours worked.


  • The findings of the Periodic Labour Force Surveys (PLFS) reveal that the gender earnings gap is influenced by various factors, including social pressures and individual choices, which shape the complex interplay between societal norms and individual decisions in the workforce.

Key takeaways from the Survey

  • Men consistently earn more than women across all forms of work. In 2023, male self-employed workers earned 2.8 times that of women, while male regular wage workers earned 24% more, and male casual workers earned 48% more.
  • The gender earnings gap has increased for self-employed workers but has fallen for regular-wage workers. In 2019, male regular wage workers earned 34% more than women, which decreased to 24% in 2023.
  • Women work fewer hours per week than men across all forms of work. In 2023, the gap in work hours was largest for self-employed workers, with men working 50% more hours than women, and lowest for regular wage workers (19%).
  • When considering earnings per hour worked, the gender gap reduces significantly for regular wage workers. In 2023, the gap in hourly earnings was only around 4%, falling from 11% in 2019, as women in regular work earn roughly the same per hour.
  • Inequality in hourly earnings is higher in other forms of work, though not as high as when considering total earnings. In 2023, male casual workers earned 23% more per hour than women, and the gap had reduced from 33% in 2019. The self-employed saw an increase in the gap, from 84% in 2019 to 87% in 2023.
  • Working hours are not solely determined by choice, as social norms that place the burden of domestic and child-rearing duties on women can limit their options. It's essential to address these social norms and remove barriers that restrict women's access to full-time work, which can involve workplace interventions such as creches and maternity leave policies, as well as broader societal transformations.

Gender Pay Gap

  • The gender pay gap refers to the difference in earnings between men and women in the workforce. Historically, women have been excluded from many professions and have often been paid less than men for the same work. Despite progress in women's rights, the gender pay gap remains a significant global issue.

Reasons for the Gender Pay Gap

Occupational Segregation

Women and men often end up in different industries and jobs due to historical, societal, and educational factors.

Jobs that are traditionally associated with women, such as caregiving, teaching, or administrative roles, tend to pay less than male-dominated fields like engineering, finance, or technology.

Occupational segregation is often reinforced by societal expectations and stereotypes about suitable careers for men and women.


Women can face direct discrimination in hiring, promotions, and pay decisions. Employers might intentionally pay women less than men for the same work.

Biases in decision-making processes, even if unintended, can lead to disparities in pay. For instance, if women are evaluated differently than men for the same performance, it can result in unequal pay.

Motherhood Penalty

Mothers might be perceived as less committed to their jobs and are often passed over for promotions or challenging assignments.

Studies have shown that women's wages often never fully recover after having children. This is due to various factors, including reduced work hours, career interruptions, and bias against mothers in the workplace.

Lack of Representation

Women are underrepresented in higher-paying leadership positions, including executive and board roles. The lack of female representation in decision-making positions can perpetuate unequal pay structures.

The "glass ceiling" metaphorically describes the unseen, yet unbreakable barrier that keeps women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, affecting their earning potential.

Implicit Bias

Hiring managers and employers may have unconscious biases that affect their judgment about an employee's abilities or suitability for certain roles. These biases can lead to women being overlooked for promotions or deserving salary increases, perpetuating the pay gap.

Salary Negotiation Disparities

Research indicates that women often approach salary negotiations differently than men. Women might be less assertive or more hesitant in negotiating their salaries, leading to initial offers that are lower than what they could potentially earn.

Educational Choices

Women and men sometimes choose different fields of study in education, leading to disparities in qualifications for higher-paying jobs. For example, men might dominate fields like computer science and engineering, which often offer higher salaries.

Workplace Flexibility

Women are more likely to take on caregiving responsibilities for children or elderly family members. Jobs that offer flexibility in terms of working hours or remote work options might pay less, leading women to opt for these roles, impacting their earnings.

Unpaid Labor

Women often bear the brunt of household chores and caregiving responsibilities. Unpaid labour limits the time and energy women can devote to their careers, affecting their opportunities for career advancement and higher earnings.

Cultural and Social Norms

Societal expectations about gender roles can influence career choices. For example, traditional beliefs that men should be the primary breadwinners can affect women’s career decisions and opportunities.

Even in progressive societies, implicit expectations about women prioritizing family over a career can influence workplace dynamics and decisions, affecting women’s earning potential.

Impact of the Gender Pay Gap

Economic Inequality

  • Women, on average, earn a lower wage than men for the same job roles. This income inequality means women have less disposable income to invest in education, healthcare, or investments. It also limits their ability to climb the socioeconomic ladder.
  • Due to lower pay, women might have limited opportunities for professional growth. This stagnation in their careers further widens the income gap between men and women over time.
  • Limited access to capital hampers women entrepreneurs. This lack of financial resources hinders the establishment and growth of women-led businesses, contributing to overall economic disparity.

Retirement Disparities

  • Lower earnings translate directly into smaller contributions to retirement savings accounts. Over decades, this gap has accumulated, resulting in significantly smaller retirement funds for women.
  • In old age, women might need to rely on social security benefits or family support due to insufficient savings. This dependence can lead to financial vulnerability and a decreased quality of life during retirement.

Psychological Effects

  • Knowing they are paid less for the same work can lead to decreased job satisfaction among women. This dissatisfaction can affect their overall motivation and productivity at work.
  • Continuous undervaluation can erode self-confidence. Women might doubt their skills and abilities, hindering their willingness to take on new challenges or pursue leadership roles.
  • The stress of financial insecurity and the emotional toll of being undervalued can contribute to mental health issues like anxiety and depression.

Social Consequences

  • Families with limited resources might prioritize educating male children over females due to traditional gender roles. This perpetuates a cycle where women have fewer educational qualifications, limiting their career options and perpetuating the pay gap.
  • Economic disparities can reinforce traditional gender roles where women are expected to fulfil domestic responsibilities while men are the primary breadwinners. This limits women’s participation in the workforce and their access to higher-paying jobs.
  • Societal norms and biases can further entrench the pay gap. Prejudices and stereotypes can affect hiring decisions, promotions, and salary negotiations, creating an environment where women are systematically undervalued.

Steps taken to address gender pay disparities and promote gender equality

Legal Framework and Policies

Equal Remuneration Act (1976) mandates equal payment for equal work, irrespective of gender.

Maternity Benefits Act (1961) and Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act (2017) provide maternity benefits to women employees, ensuring their job security and maternity leave.

Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act (2013) mandates the establishment of Internal Complaints Committees (ICCs) at workplaces to address complaints of sexual harassment.

Affirmative Action and Reservations

The 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Indian Constitution reserve one-third of the seats in local bodies (Panchayats) for women.

The Women's Reservation Bill amended the Constitution of India to reserve one-third of seats in the Lok Sabha and State Assemblies for women.

Educational Initiatives

Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (Education for All) aimed at universalizing elementary education, ensuring that girls have equal access to education.

Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao (Save the Girl Child, Educate the Girl Child) campaign to address the issue of the declining child sex ratio and promote the education of girls.

Economic Empowerment and Skill Development

MUDRA Yojana provides financial support to entrepreneurs, especially women, to start their businesses.

Various skill development programs aim to empower women by enhancing their employability and entrepreneurial skills.

Awareness and Sensitization

Numerous awareness campaigns are conducted to sensitize society about gender equality and women's rights.

Integration of gender sensitization modules in school and college curricula to promote understanding and respect for gender equality.


Enforcement of Existing Laws and Policies

  • Many government agencies responsible for enforcing labour laws often lack the necessary resources, both in terms of personnel and funding. This shortage can hinder their ability to conduct regular inspections and investigations into workplace practices.
  • In some regions, corruption might be prevalent, leading to a situation where companies can bribe officials to overlook violations of gender equality laws.
  • Political priorities and attitudes towards gender equality greatly influence law enforcement. If there is a lack of political will to enforce these laws rigorously, companies might not face significant consequences for non-compliance.

Deep-Rooted Gender Biases and Stereotypes

  • Many people hold implicit biases, which are unconscious attitudes or stereotypes that affect their understanding, actions, and decisions. These biases can influence how managers assess employees’ capabilities, leading to unequal opportunities.
  • Societal norms and expectations about gender roles can seep into workplace dynamics. For instance, women might be expected to take on caregiving roles, affecting their availability for certain jobs or promotions.

Insufficient Data Collection and Analysis

  • Many organizations do not collect comprehensive data related to gender and employment. Even if they do, the data might not be disaggregated by gender or other relevant factors, making it hard to identify specific patterns of discrimination.
  • Insufficient research in this area limits the understanding of the nuanced challenges women face in various industries. Lack of research hampers the formulation of targeted policies and interventions.

Compounded Discrimination for Marginalized Communities

  • Intersectionality refers to the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender, which can create overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination. Women from marginalized communities face discrimination based not only on their gender but also on their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic status.
  • Women from marginalized communities might have limited access to education, healthcare, and professional networks, which further restricts their opportunities for career growth and financial stability.

Way Forward

  • Educating society about the importance of gender equality and equal pay is crucial. It helps challenge existing biases and stereotypes, fostering a more inclusive mindset among people.
  • Strengthening laws and introducing new policies are essential for creating a legal framework that supports equal pay. Effective policies can provide guidelines for companies and ensure that there are consequences for pay discrimination.
  • Encouraging companies to be transparent about their salary structures and promoting diversity and inclusion can create a more equitable workplace. Transparent salary policies reduce the chances of pay gaps going unnoticed and unaddressed.
  • Providing education, training, and support to women empowers them to negotiate better salaries and advance in their careers. Economic empowerment is a key factor in achieving gender equality.
  • Investing in research helps in understanding the specific challenges and factors contributing to the pay gap. Data-driven insights enable policymakers and organizations to develop targeted interventions that address the root causes of pay disparities.
  • Implementing policies that support work-life balance, such as parental leave and flexible work hours, not only benefits women but also contributes to a more inclusive workplace for all employees. These policies can help reduce gender disparities, particularly the motherhood penalty that many women face in the workplace.


  • The gender earnings gap in India varies across different forms of work and has been influenced by changes in hour’s worked and hourly earnings. Addressing this gap requires a multi-faceted approach, including policy interventions and changes in societal norms to provide women with more opportunities for full-time employment and fair wages.

Must Read Articles:

PERIODIC LABOUR FORCE SURVEY (PLFS): https://www.iasgyan.in/daily-current-affairs/6th-periodic-labour-force-survey-plfs-data#:~:text=The%20Periodic%20Labour%20Force%20Survey%20(PLFS)%20is%20a%20quarterly%20survey,in%20rural%20and%20urban%20areas.


Q. What are some of the key challenges and barriers women continue to face in the workforce today, and what strategies can be employed to address and ultimately eliminate gender inequality in professional settings?