Gender-based Differences in Labor Market Returns in Indian Manufacturing: Evidences from NSS Rounds.

AuthorMondal, Bidisha


This paper addresses three questions regarding gender-based differences in labor market outcomes in Indian manufacturing sector during 200405 to 2011-12. The first is: how the gender wage gap has moved during the period in the sector and what are the factors behind such changes? The second question is: whether the change in gender wage gap differs among different enterprises and if it does what are the factors behind it? The third question is: how the job security conditions change in different occupations for male and female workers over the time period and what are the factors behind such changes?

The focus is on the wage earners in Indian Manufacturing sector. The time period considered here is from 2004-05 to 2011-12. The database of the analysis has been the employment and unemployment surveys of National Sample Survey rounds. Descriptive statistics, Logit regression and Neumark decomposition analysis are the methodologies used here to address the questions.

We divided the workers in Indian manufacturing sector into three main groups. The first group includes senior officials, managers, professionals and technicians who are usually workers with high education levels and relatively higher wages. They are described here as white-collar workers. The second group includes clerks, sales and service workers, who usually have education levels lower than those of white-collar workers as well as lower average wage levels. They are described as pink-collar workers. The third group consists of blue-collar workers: craftsmen, machine operators and those engaged in what are classified as "elementary occupations", which receive, on average, lower wages than pink-collar workers and usually have very low levels of or no formal education.

The enterprises are divided into three groups according to their ownership patterns. Group 1 consists of household-managed enterprises, partnership firms, co-operative societies. Group 2 are the public sector enterprises and group 3 comprises the private/public limited companies.

Our analysis reveals that the female to male wage ratio improved sharply for blue-collar workers and more sharply in rural areas. The improvement took place due to high increase in the share of female blue-collar workers in regular monthly salary system where average earnings were higher and reduction in the share in piece-rate payment system where average earnings were lower. The change took place mainly due to the sectoral changes taking place among rural female blue-collar workers. There occurred a significant rise in the share of employment in wearing apparel industry and a sharp fall in the share of tobacco industries among rural female blue-collar workers. The share of pink-collar occupations also increased among female workers in manufacturing industries.

Another important finding is that the female to male wage ratio improved tremendously in public/private limited companies. The responsible factors had been a rise in the share of white-collar and pink-collar occupations among female workers and high rise in the share of female blue-collar workers in regular monthly salary system in those enterprises. At the same time there was a decline in the share of female workers in these enterprises.

Another important finding is the decline in the share of workers with written job contract among female pink-collar workers whereas the situation stayed the same for male workers. The reason had been the casualization of female pink-collar workers in which house-keeping and restaurant service workers had a major share.

Theoretical Framework

The neo-classical or human capital model explains gender wage gap in terms of differences in education, experience level and constraints which include family responsibilities, preference for work environment etc. According to the tenet, workers' preference for a job and also employers' preference for a worker get influenced by these characteristics of workers. But the theory failed to explain the existence of large gender wage gap. So the neo-classicals developed complementary theories. To explain the existing discrimination, Gary S.Becker came out with his theory that employers had a taste for discrimination against workers based on their age, gender, race, disability etc. But he also argued that as competition would grow in an economy, the discriminatory behavior of the employers would make them uncompetitive compared to the non-discriminatory employers. Thus, to survive in a competitive economy, the discriminatory employers would change their attitude (Anker, 1997). Two conditions had to be fulfilled for that result. The first condition was that the number of discriminatory employers should not be too large and the second condition was that the supply of discriminated workers should not be greater than the demand for those employees (Autor, 2003).

The early feminists of 1960s fought for equality in treatment as a legal right. This brand of feminism, often known as legal feminism, followed an equality-based strategy based on the assumption that there were no legally relevant differences between male and female workers. During that era women were excluded from several domains of work because of their biological differences with men workers. They were more confined to family sphere. After following those equalitybased strategies for few decades, one lesson was taught that ensuring mere access to these domains where the institutions were designed keeping men in mind wasn't sufficient to bring equality in true sense. So few feminists argued that along with the equality in access there had to be appreciation of the biological differences between male and female workers. However the feminist got themselves divided over that sameness-difference debate. some feminists argued that recognition of these differences would lead to the former ideology of separating spheres back. Others recognised that equality in treatment was creating obstacle to formulating solutions to the unique problems women workers faced. So the "post-egalitarian feminists" focused on justice and fairness going beyond equality in treatment and tried to push for the necessary affirmative actions from a feminist perspective after recognizing the differences between male and female workers (Fineman, 1995).

According to the gender theorists, the difference in labor market outcomes between male and female workers was mainly due to common stereotypes about female abilities. The positive stereotypes consisted of caring nature, skill and experience in household related work, more honesty and attractive physical appearance. The negative stereotypes consisted of disinclination to supervise, lesser physical strength, lesser ability in science, lesser willingness to travel and lesser willingness to face physical danger and to use physical force. The positive stereotypes like the caring nature and attractive physical appearance were supposed to result in higher representation of female workers in sales and service workers and the negative stereotypes like less ability to supervise and less ability in science were supposed to result in lower share of female workers in white-collar workers' group (Anker, 1997). Apart from being itself a manifestation of gender-based discrimination, occupational segregation strengthened gender wage gap in a work organization in other ways. Higher representation of female workers in managerial and supervisory positions in a work organization often tended to influence the reward distribution between male and female workers by influencing the policies relevant for gender bias there. Also female workers seemed to benefit more from sex-differentiated networks in a work organization where male members didn't dominate the managerial and supervisory positions (Hultin & Szulkin, 2003).

Also provision of marketed alternatives to family care could provide more freedom to women irrespective...

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