A recent study by the Kochi-based Centre for Socio-Economic and Environmental Studies has revealed strong gender differences in the labour market behaviour of rural youth.
The study conducted in the Maneed panchayat in Ernakulam district through interviews with members of around 644 families just as the COVID-19 lockdown was being imposed in 2020, showed that the proportion of young women (aged 18-40 years) who are employed is less than half of the employed men. The numbers are 33% for women and 70% for men.
The work participation rate for men is 100% in the 36-40 age group and 91% in the age group of 31-35 years. Thus, almost all the young men aged above 30 years are employed while only 45% of the women in the same age group are employed. Even in the 26-30 age group, 87% of the men are employed as against just 41% among women, said the study titled ‘Gender Analysis of Labour Market Outcomes’ led by Rakkee Thimothy, Anagha C.R., Swathy, Mohanan, Jayan K.M. and Bibin Thambi.
While there is no much difference in work participation of men between Schedule Caste and forward communities, there is a significant difference in the female work participation between these two groups (27% for SC and 40% for general category). This implies that women belonging to the SC category are particularly disadvantaged in their access to employment.
Service sector has emerged as the main employment provider. The sector accounts for the majority of employment in the study village, partially due to its proximity to the Kochi city. While 79% of the employed women are in the service sector, only 49% of men work in the service sector. Nearly half of the women in the service sector are employed in education and health care sectors.
On the other hand, 44% of the employed men are engaged in the secondary sector, which includes manufacturing and construction, as against just 18% of employed women. Just two per cent of men and one per cent of women are engaged in agriculture and allied sectors.
It has also emerged that women unemployment is a pressing problem. The study finds that there is a significant difference in the unemployment rate between men and women. As against 13% for men, the unemployment rate for women is 43%.The study also finds that unemployment among men is mainly in the age group 18-25. It is nine per cent in the 31-35 age group and nil in the 36-40 age group. On the other hand, the unemployment rate among women is as high as 40% in the 31-35 age group and 27% among the 36-40 age group.
The study also showed that marriage and family issues limit the work participation of women. When asked about the reasons for unemployment, 58% of the women who are currently unemployed but are seeking employment reported that the compulsions of marriage, childbirth and family responsibilities adversely affected their employment prospects. Only four per cent of the unemployed men cited such reasons.
Some of the currently unemployed youth held a job previously. When they were asked to give the reasons for leaving their jobs, 61% of the women reported marriage and family responsibilities as a reason against just six per cent of men. About one-third (32%) of the women who changed jobs in the past did so because of family responsibilities or marriage, the study said.
Though previous studies had suggested that the strong preference for government jobs contributes to high unemployment among the youth in Kerala, only 12% of unemployed women and eight per cent of unemployed men expressed a preference for government jobs. The study also found that there is not much inclination towards self-employment or for starting own enterprises. Only eight per cent of male job seekers and three per cent of female job seekers are open to the idea of self-employment or starting
enterprises on their own.