Only 22 percent of working-age women are employed in Nepal

Kathmandu, 2nd May 2019

Although the population of working-age females in the country is higher than that of males, females still lag far behind when it comes to employment—and the pay gap between the genders is also huge.

According to the Nepal Labour Force Survey 2017-18, for every 100 males in the working-age population, there are 125 females, but for every 100 employed males, there are only 59 employed females.

The population of working-age males stands at 9.2 million while that of working-age females stands at 11.53 million.

The working-age population has been defined as people with age 15 and above.

Of the total working-age women, only 8.5 million are in the labour force who are either employed or are in search of employment, and only 2.6 million from the total women labour force are employed, according to the report. This shows only 22.5 percent of working-age women are employed.

The survey has considered only those who are receiving wage or salary for doing work and making profits for being self-employed as “employed”. So, people employed in subsistence farming and household chores do not fall under the definition of the “employed”.

With the majority of women involved in non-profit making and non-wage earning works, the employment ratio of women is very low, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics which published the report last week.

With a large number of males migrating to foreign countries for jobs, women’s employment in the formal industrial sector was expected to go up.

However, Saru Joshi, who has expertise on labour migration and women issues, said there has not been any significant jump in the number of women getting employed in formal jobs because of the lack of necessary skills needed in the sector.

“Women have not been able to find an appropriate environment to work in the formal sector due to their social responsibilities at home,” she told the Post. “Lack of day care centres in the workplace and women-friendly environment is yet another factor for not many women being in the formal jobs.”

The survey also shows that males are mostly employed in construction, manufacturing and transport industries while females are employed in the areas of agriculture, wholesale and retail trading and education industries. 

Most of the jobs, according to the survey, have been created in the informal sector where the majority of men and women are employed.

For example, 66.5 percent of employed women and 59.7 percent of employed men are in the informal sector.

Within the informal sector, males are mostly involved in non-agriculture informal sector while females are mostly involved in the informal agriculture sector, according to the survey.  In the informal sector, there is a lack of social security and the workers are underpaid, according to Joshi.

“In the sectors like hotels and dance restaurants and domestic works, women are not paid even the minimum wage,” she said.

Trade unionists said because of lack of education and skills, women are heavily employed in the informal sector. But there is room for increasing women’s participation in the formal sector, as the trend shows large numbers of males are going abroad for jobs, according to them.

“Private sector enterprises should also come up with women-friendly policies,” said Indira Sapkota, vice-president of Nepal Trade Union Congress, a workers’ body affiliated to the Nepali Congress.

“Like in the government jobs, there should be provisions of quota for women workers in the private sector enterprises to increase their participation.”

As most of the women are employed in the informal sector as well as elementary jobs, there is a huge gap in wages paid to males and females, according to the survey.

The average monthly income of women is Rs5,834 less than what of men, the survey showed. Males earn Rs19,464 on average, while females are being paid Rs13,630 regardless of their profession.

There is a wage gap in the post of manager, professionals, technicians and associate professionals, clerical support workers, service and sales workers, skilled agriculture forestry and fishery workers, craft and related trade workers, plant and machine operators and assemblers and elementary occupations.

For example, the average monthly income of a male manager is Rs34,162 while it is Rs29,342 for a women manager. Even in elementary jobs, the average monthly income of males is Rs15,194 while it is Rs10,580 for females.

According to Joshi, women are still not getting enough exposure and training, and they are still subjected to so-called “family penalty” for not working during the time of motherhood, which also leads to the wage gap.

“Enterprises take into consideration time women can give to enterprises while taking wage decisions,” she said.

According to the survey, women are heavily hired in elementary and less technical jobs while males are hired in higher positions and more technical jobs, which also lead to the wage gap between male and female.

According to Joshi, there are limited women acquiring higher education in the technical field compared to men which also makes it difficult for women to get highly paid jobs in the technical field.

But Sapkota says male bias is yet another—and major—factor that prevents women from getting top jobs.

“Like in politics, there is male bias in the private sector too,” she said. “Males were preferred for the job of chiefs at local level while females have been elected to the post of deputy chiefs. This is reflective of how our society functions and this tendency is prevalent in all areas—even in the private sector.” - Kathmandu Post

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