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Rationale Behind the worsening of Gender Pay Gap – Center of Policy Research & Governance


Since times immemorial, women have faced discrimination due to the notion of females being the so-called “weaker sex”. Women have struggled to access opportunities and have always been looked down upon as inferior and hence “less capable” and requiring “support”. They have fought and protested for basic rights that come naturally to men. It is true that society has come a long way and women have truly excelled and made their mark in all sectors of society and the economy in the present era. Yet a great disparity still exists between the sexes on many fronts, an important one being getting unequal pay.

The gender pay gap is essentially the average difference between the remuneration received by working men and women and stems from the difference in the number of men versus women who work. It also arises from differences in work tenures and other such factors.

While focusing on a country like India, the reasons for the existence of the gender pay gap vary from different socioeconomic factors to structural ones. Women in India have to deal with a set of complex issues ranging from differential access to education to social stigma surrounding work after marriage/childbirth. Around 46% of women believe that there is a probability that they will quit their jobs after maternity leave, as highlighted by the Monster Salary Index, 2019. A strong stereotype persists that women are naturally instilled with feelings of ‘warmth’, and ‘softness’ which make them less suitable for leadership positions. Further innumerable women face discrimination at work and many have safety considerations that prevent them from taking up certain jobs or working a night shift. Such factors cause a decline in the number of women who join the workforce which further widens the gender pay gap. Apart from the gender pay gap, India is also facing a huge pay disparity among the categories of organised and unorganised sectors, rural and urban areas, and regular and casual workers.

Even though several constitutional provisions prohibit differential pay to men and women on several unreasonable grounds, these are rarely acknowledged. Article 38(2) of the Indian Constitution strives to minimize inequalities in income among individuals while Article 39 guarantees equal pay for equal work for both men and women.

Further, The Equal Remuneration Act (ERA), 1976 of the Indian government under the Ministry of Labour and Employment provides for the payment of equal remuneration to men and women workers and for the prevention of discrimination, on the ground of sex, against women in the matter of employment and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. Additionally, the ERA prohibits any discrimination between men and women workers for the same work or work of similar nature on the grounds of recruitment including promotions, training, or transfer.

Despite such legislation, India has fallen 28 places on the gender gap index according to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap Report, 2021. Women’s labour force participation in India is one of the lowest in the world. Women comprise almost half of the Indian population but make up less than a quarter of the labour force. An average women’s salary is 20% less than that of a man.

Mr. Warren Farrell, a well-known gender expert argues that a company hiring only female workers would essentially have a 10% higher profit, than a company that would hire half the men. This would lead to the company becoming one of the most profitable ones, not only financially but also when it comes to the sphere of social justice. He further states if more employers followed this profit model, the salaries of women would automatically rise and close the pay gap. 

There is also a need to touch upon certain aspects which have an indirect bearing on the pay scale of any individual. According to the 2017 American Times US Survey by the Bureau of Labour Statistics, men work an average of 20 minutes extra than their 8-hour day whereas women work 10 minutes less. Now while ‘Time’ is one such aspect, ‘Productivity’ is another. For instance, men and women have different physical capabilities when it comes to manual and labour work, this impacts the output of the work they do and the time they complete the work given in. Thus when it comes to the gender pay gap in addition to the stereotype and discrimination that exists against women, factors such as time and productivity add to broaden the gap.

South Asia is one of the worst performers as far as the gap in the economic participation of both men and women is concerned and it will take 195.4 years for the South Asian countries to close the gender gap at the present pace of reforms. It, therefore, becomes pertinent for countries like India to look into the effective implementation of the reform measures suggested by the Government of India to speed the process of achieving equal representation of women and work towards giving women their due share in the workforce.


Disha Aggarwal

Research Intern at CPRG