Workplace Gender Gap In Labor Markets – OpEd

The 2023 Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded to the famous American economist, Harvard University Professor Claudia Goldin. Her subject of study is women and the gender gap in labour markets. Since the Nobel Prize in Economics began in 1969, only two women, Elinor Ostrom in 2009 and Esther Duflo in 2019, have received the honour.

And now, in 2023, Professor Goldin has been honored again for her work on challenges and success in women’s labour markets. She has done an in-depth analysis of the trends and nature of women in the labour market. Goldin’s research does not offer solutions alone; it also allows policymakers to tackle the entrenched problem.

Goldin’s study explains that a woman’s position in the labour market and her corresponding income are not solely shaped by overarching societal and economic changes. They are also influenced, in part, by her personal choices, such as the level of education she pursues. The work of Professor Goldin seems more relevant considering contemporary economic and social issues. The analysis of his contribution can be understood in the following ways:

Women education should be emphasized

First, policymakers in every country should place more emphasis on women’s education. Education is an essential condition for girls. Second, women should be able to enter the labour force after formal education. And there should also be no gender discrimination at the workplace, whether it is regarding the distribution of work or equal pay for equal work. There is also a gender gap in terms of salary and wages. It has historically been found in all regions. The wage gap between men and women has decreased over time, but the pace of decline has been slow. It also means that until there is a law for the welfare and safety of women in companies, jobs will continue to go to men.

This is the reality, and Goldin has also shown in her work that the gender gap does not necessarily disappear with economic growth, as large gaps exist in many economies. The first things that need to be changed in the interest of women are social norms, which especially act as a hindrance in a conservative society. Even after girls are fully educated, traditions may come in the way of getting a job. And it has been observed that as Western economies reached the developed stage, the proportion of women in the labour force increased, but this did not happen in developing countries in Asia and Africa.

What measures can governments take for this?

Along with increasing the attendance rate in school education, the government should also increase the enrollment of women in university education. Governments must start by prioritising gender equality and security. There is a need to provide a better environment for women. Factories should also compulsorily provide crèche facilities so that women do not have to leave work due to becoming mothers. ‘Work from home’ facilities can be extended to women employees to ensure that they can work long hours without leave. Often, even qualified women leave work and go home, then do not return, and sometimes even when they return under compulsion, their work changes.

Finally, many areas or tasks have been reserved for men for security reasons. This concerns low-paid services such as food delivery or public transport driving. Both areas are still the stronghold of men. Governments and policymakers should work to create an environment for women to work safely in a variety of roles and have financial independence.

The question is, will this help?

Maybe yes, this can be understood with some examples. For example, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has made it mandatory for companies to have at least one woman as a director on their boards. Similar steps can be considered for women in top management so that they can become role models for other working women.

The historic Women’s Reservation Bill recently introduced by the Government of India, which seeks to provide 33 percent reservation to women in the Lok Sabha and state legislatures, might be a crucial step in this direction. In many countries, the provision of women’s reservation has been given in the Constitution, or this provision has been made through a bill, whereas in many countries it has been implemented at the level of political parties only.

In Argentina (30 percent), in Afghanistan (27 percent), in Pakistan (30 percent), and in Bangladesh (10 percent), reservation has been provided to women by law, while the countries that have given reservation to women by political parties include Denmark (34 percent), Norway (38 percent), Sweden (40 percent), Finland (34 percent), Iceland (25 percent), etc.

Claudia Goldin’s winning the Nobel Prize in Economics is an opportunity for governments and policymakers around the world to be inspired to improve women’s participation in the labour market. This will not only help in diversity and gender empowerment but will also enable better utilisation of human resources.