India's gender pay gap at 34% cannot be taken on its face value: ILO's Xavier Estupinan

According to Xavier Estupinan, Wages Specialist at ILO, in India the wage gap is most in the lowest paid jobs.

By Sonal Khetarpal  
Tuesday, September 4, 2018

International Labour Organisation (ILO), using data from National Sample Survey Office (NSSO), estimates that India's gender pay gap has been decreasing and in 2012 stood at 34 per cent from 48 per cent in 1993.

However, there is a lacuna. According to Xavier Estupinan, Wages Specialist at ILO, in India the wage gap is most in the lowest paid jobs. Gender pay gap is mostly calculated in four main areas - formal and informal workforce across urban and rural areas. It is lowest in urban formal workforce at 23 per cent and is highest in informal rural workers at 38 per cent, implying that women in rural areas who get the lowest wages also bear the brunt of wage inequality the most, he says. Most of these women are employed in agriculture.

"The most critical aspect of India's wage gap is the problem of sticky floor where women in the lowest paid jobs get the brunt of the wage inequality," says Estupinan. ILO estimates that almost 68 per cent of women in rural areas in casual work get less than the national floor level minimum wage set by the government.

As India's economy is growing, there is also a considerable increase in wages. Household wages have increased two times since the economic reforms of 1990. Due to the better living conditions, women who were forced to work in worst conditions because of poverty withdrew from labour market. World Bank found that almost 19.6 million women withdrew from the workforce from 2005 to 2012. This contributed significantly to reducing the gender wage gap because a considerable percentage of lowest paid workers withdrew from workforce and, the ones who gained participation are women in regular jobs.

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