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Widespread job restrictions on Indian women: World Bank

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Washington: Indian women face widespread restrictions for jobs though things are changing which is reflected in some recent decisions like quota for women on corporate boards of publicly-listed companies, according to a new World Bank report on South Asia’s largest economy.

In a report released today, the World bank said in India job restrictions remain widespread, with women not allowed to work in mining or in jobs that require lifting weights above a certain threshold or working with glass.

The law also prohibits women from jobs “involving danger to life, health or morals”.

In addition, there are no laws to protect women against sexual harassment in public places, protections which exist in 18 other economies around the world, the bank said in the report ‘Women, Business and the Law 2016’.

At the same time, the bank said in the last two years, India undertook one reform in the areas covered by the report.

By introducing a law mandating at least one female member on the board of publicly-listed companies, India became the only developing country and one of only nine in the world to mandate female inclusion on corporate boards, it said.

“I would say, on the question of where some of the job restrictions are coming from in India, actually, one of the main sources that we see is legacy legislation. And by that, I mean something like the Factories Act, which actually came from the British,” said Sarah Iqbal, the report’s lead author.

“You see the same act in India, you see it in Pakistan, you see it in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and it basically restricts the type of work that women can do. And what’s even more interesting is Jamaica has almost the same act, the Factories Act, which they just reformed in the last two years, and they removed the restrictions on women’s work in certain jobs and factories,” she said.

In India, while they’re debating it at the state level in certain states, it still exists, the World Bank official said.

“But one thing that India has done in the past few years which we found very heartening is India is the first developing economy that has a quota for women on corporate boards for publicly-listed companies,” Iqbal said.

“The quota in India is at least one woman has to be a member of the corporate board. Every other economy that we see is actually a developed economy. So, India is the first developing economy to do this,” she said.

When it comes to issue of women’s jobs, there is quite a bit of anomaly in India, acknowledged World Bank vice president and chief economist Kaushik Basu.

“In India you will find this anomaly that, right at the top, at the level of ministers, politicians, you have very, very prominent women. But at the level of jobs and job discrimination, there is quite a bit of that,” Basu said.

“One very interesting thing about India is that there’s a huge amount of regional difference which you can see between the north and the south and the east and the west.

“This, unfortunately, is not something that we do with in-country advice, but there is a lot of advice, I have to say, in India which can be picked up by one region for another region as to how to do better on some of these indicators,” he said.
PTI