Domestic laws curb women's jobs

Domestic laws curb women's jobs

A World Bank study of 173 countries draws attention to how domestic laws stand in the way of women getting jobs, accessing credit and participating in economic life. Not only do such laws prevent women from realising their full economic potential but also economies are losing out by not drawing on their skills. Ninety per cent of the countries surveyed were found to have at least one law that discriminates against women. In 41 countries, women are barred from working in certain factory jobs, in 29 they are forbidden from working the night shift and in 18, the husband’s permission is required for a woman to get a job. Paternity leave, which encourages sharing of parental responsibilities is allowed in just half the countries surveyed.

When the full burden of childcare falls on the mother, it impacts her employment. While women in West Asia and North Africa face “the most wide-ranging constraints,” barriers to women’s advancement are “rife” in South Asia. The study found that South Asia is a laggard when it comes to undertaking reforms to usher in gender equality. In the past two years, only three reforms were enacted by two countries in the region.
India’s enactment of a law making it mandatory to have at least one woman on the board of publicly-listed companies finds special mention in the World Bank study.

While India can take pride in being the only developing country and one of just nine countries in the world to mandate inclusion of women on corporate boards, its work environment for women is hostile. Job restrictions on women are widespread in India, the World Bank study says, confirming the many negative experiences that women encounter in the job market. They are not allowed to work in mines, for instance. India doesn’t have laws to protect women from sexual harassment in public places, the study notes.

Restrictions on hiring women in ‘dangerous jobs’ or in the night shift is supposedly aimed at protecting women. However, restrictions weaken women by limiting their choices and forcing them indoors. If the aim is to protect women, it is imperative that the working environment and their commute to work and back should be made safe. Sexual harassment and violence, whether at home, on the streets or at work should not be tolerated. It is important that restrictions on women’s employment and access to credit are lifted. India must act to ensure gender equality in employ-ment. Importantly, the government must not ignore the plight of women in the unorganised sector.

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