Green Jobs and the Problem of Gender Disparity

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Green Jobs and the Problem of Gender Disparity Blog Image

Why in News?

  • The global shift towards low-carbon development offers India a unique opportunity.
  • However, the transition presents a gender disparity challenge, with men more likely to transition to green jobs faster than women.
  • Therefore, it is important to explore the gender dimensions of India's green transition, emphasising the need for women's empowerment and gender equity in climate actions.

Gender Disparities in Green Jobs in India

  • Occupational Concentration
    • Traditional gender norms have led to the concentration of women in sectors such as apparel, textile, and food, while men dominate industries like infrastructure, transport, construction, and manufacturing.
    • Green jobs, spanning manufacturing, construction, renewable energy, and automobiles, have historically seen lower representation of women, reflecting persistent occupational divides.
  • Underrepresentation in Renewable Energy Sector
    • Despite India's commendable 250% increase in renewable energy capacity from 2015 to 2021, women remain vastly underrepresented in sectors like the solar rooftop industry, comprising only 11% of the workforce.
    • This underlines the challenge of integrating women into the rapidly growing green economy, where stereotypes and social norms still dictate occupational choices.
  • Training Disparities
    • The 2023 study by the Skill Council for Green Jobs reveals that 85% of the training for green skills is imparted to men, while over 90% of women perceive social norms as restricting their participation in such training.
    • This disparity in training opportunities perpetuates the underrepresentation of women in emerging green sectors.
  • STEM Graduates and Sectoral Representation
    • While 42.7% of STEM graduates in India are women, they represent only 30.8% in key sectors for the green transition, including engineering, manufacturing, and construction.
    • This discrepancy indicates that despite the increasing number of women pursuing STEM education, they face barriers to entering fields crucial for the country's sustainable development.
    • Beliefs that women are unsuitable for certain technical roles, safety concerns, and lower representation in STEM subjects reinforce stereotypes, hindering women's access to opportunities in sectors pivotal for a low-carbon future.
  • Disparities in Leadership Positions
    • A Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) 2019 report highlights that men comprise 85% of the workforce in sectors such as infrastructure, transport, construction, and manufacturing.
    • The underrepresentation of women in leadership positions further reinforces gender disparities, as decision-making processes may lack a gender-inclusive perspective.

The Global Context of Gender Disparities in Green Jobs

  • Globally, women are being left behind in the race to achieve climate targets and sustainability goals.
  • This is particularly evident in the transition to a low-carbon economy, where new opportunities are created alongside job displacement and transformation.
  • Recently in a critical stride towards justice and inclusivity in transition planning, COP 28’s high-level dialogue launched ‘Gender-Responsive Just Transitions and Climate Action Partnership’ with a focus on improved data, targeted finance, and skill development.

Benefits of Women's Participation in Green Jobs

  • Will Address Gender Biases in the Labour Market
    • Increased representation of women in green jobs serves as a potent antidote to deeply ingrained gender biases in the labour market.
    • By breaking into traditionally male-dominated sectors such as manufacturing, construction, and renewable energy, women can challenge preconceived notions and reshape societal perceptions of gender roles.
  • Enhanced Economic Opportunities
    • Women's increased representation in green jobs translates into expanded economic opportunities for them.
    • Engaging in sectors like renewable energy and energy efficiency allows women to access high-growth industries, fostering economic growth and personal financial stability.
    • Beyond mere economic benefits, women's participation in green jobs creates opportunities for their advancement in technical and social spheres.
    • Exposure to innovative technologies, sustainable practices, and networking within the green sector empowers women with diverse skills, fostering personal and professional growth.
  • Empower Women's Agency
    • The shift towards green jobs empowers women by providing them agency over their economic destinies.
    • Engaging in roles that contribute to environmental preservation or restoration aligns with a broader sense of purpose, allowing women to feel more connected to their work and its impact on society.
  • Contributing to Long-Term Gender Empowerment
    • Participation in green jobs goes beyond immediate economic gains, contributing to the long-term empowerment of women.
    • By breaking into sectors with historical gender imbalances, women pave the way for future generations, encouraging young girls to aspire to careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.
  • Promoting Environmental Stewardship
    • Women's participation in green jobs aligns with their historically recognized role as stewards of the environment.
    • With a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of social and ecological systems, women can bring unique insights to the development and implementation of sustainable practices within green industries.

Way Forward

  • Address the Gaps in Data
    • There is limited data to understand the landscape of women’s work for green jobs in India.
    • Mapping emerging areas for green growth and collecting sex-disaggregated data on green jobs could be the starting point to improve women’s participation.
    • There is need to build evidence on the present and future impact of low-carbon transitions on women workers and entrepreneurs while considering the hidden and invisible roles played by women across different sectors and geographies.
    • This could be done by conducting gender analysis, collecting gender statistics on green jobs through periodic labour force surveys and mobilising additional resources to emphasise and encourage women’s role in the green transition.
  • Support Women Entrepreneurs
    • Gender-focused financial policies and products catering to the requirements of women entrepreneurs can spur their ability to enter the green transition market.
    • Collateral-free lending, financial literacy training and building supportive networks are crucial steps to unlock their potential.
    • Suitable tools must be developed to assess creditworthiness, disburse loans, and reduce operational costs for women-owned businesses.
  • A Gender-Just Transition
    • A holistic strategy for a gender-just transition encompasses employment, social protection, reduced care work burden, and skill development.
    • Collaboration across government, private sectors, and stakeholders is vital to leverage innovation, technology, and finance for women entrepreneurs and workers.
    • Businesses must prioritise gender justice to mitigate barriers and foster equitable job opportunities for a just transition.

Conclusion

  • As India navigates its green transition, prioritising women's empowerment and gender equity in climate actions is essential for unlocking the co-benefits of a low-carbon and environmentally sustainable economy.
  • Bridging the gender gap in green jobs requires concerted efforts to address social norms, collect gender-disaggregated data, and implement inclusive policies.
  • This is not only an economic imperative but a crucial step towards building a socially equitable and inclusive future for all.

Q1) Why is there underrepresentation of women in certain job sectors in India?

The underrepresentation of women in certain job sectors in India can be attributed to a variety of factors. One significant factor is societal norms and traditional gender roles, which often discourage women from pursuing careers in certain fields deemed as male-dominated. Additionally, challenges such as lack of access to quality education, limited opportunities for skill development, and biases in hiring processes contribute to the gender gap in the workforce.

Q2) What measures can be taken to address the underrepresentation of women in the Indian workforce?

To address the underrepresentation of women in the Indian workforce, proactive measures need to be implemented. This includes promoting gender-inclusive policies in companies, ensuring equal opportunities for education and skill development, and challenging stereotypes that discourage women from entering specific professions. Companies can also focus on creating a more inclusive workplace culture that supports work-life balance and provides mentorship opportunities for women. Government initiatives, educational reforms, and awareness campaigns can collectively contribute to narrowing the gender gap in various job sectors.


Source: The Hindu