Women still struggle for equality

JK’s urban female unemployment rate rises to 11pc
The more education a woman has, the more likely she is to work. However, in Jammu and Kashmir [J&K] reverse is the case as the literacy rate of women is increasing the rate of idleness too is rising. Measures by the state have not narrowed the gender gap in unemployment during the past two decades.

The unemployment rates revealed by 62nd round of NSS [National Sample Survey] for the state shows the gloomy picture of the position of women in J&K. According to National Sample Survey Organization [NSSO] employment position of urban females is worse than that of males in the state as well as at all India average level when the indicators are analyzed.

In accordance with Usual Principal Status [UPS]-indicator of chronically unemployed- the urban female unemployment rate is as high as 11.7 per cent for the state. While as the same UPS indicator for male unemployment rate is 6.7 per cent and all India figure for urban female unemployment rate is 7.9 per cent. This amply shows the dismal position of female unemployment in Jammu and Kashmir [J&K].

While unemployment rate in respect of J&K has been worked out at 5.2 per cent, which is on higher side when compared to all India figures of 3.1 percent as per Usual Principal Status. On the indicator UPS the ratio of 4.7 per 100 persons in rural areas is less than 7.3 observed in urban areas.

To mention in the state women constitute about 47 per cent of the total population. Female population of the state rose marginally from 47.1 per cent of the total population in 1981 to 47.2 per cent of the total population in 2001, with an increase of 19.60 lakhs.

However, the education figures for the state regarding female too are not encouraging. In accordance to the census 2001, the gender gap in literacy for J&K is 23.6 per cent. Education of women is effective tool for women’s empowerment not only from the point of view of literacy, but has inter-linkage with other social parameters like population growth, health care, education of children and many others. Female education is essential for higher standards of health and improved maternal competence which leads to lower infant mortality. It also raises women’s economic productivity. Despite its linkage to so many positive outcomes and the progress made over the past 50 years, female literacy remains very low in J&K as compared to men.

The census 2001 report depicts the literacy rate in the state was 55.52 per cent and for females it stood at 43 per cent with a corresponding dispersion at Rural and Urban level as 36.74 per cent and 61.98 per cent respectively. While as for males the indicator stood at 66.60 per cent with a corresponding dispersion as 61.65 per cent and 80.00 per cent at Rural and Urban level.

Women are significant contributors to the growing economy. The total work force in 2001 was 37.54 lakh workers consisting of 26.80 lakh males and 10.74 lakh females. This work force consisted of 26.09 lakh main workers and 11.45 lakh marginal workers. Work participation rate amongst females was 22.45 in 2001. A sectoral breakdown of women workers reveals that 56 per cent women are cultivators, 5 per cent are agricultural labourers and 10 per cent workers in the household industry. The sectoral view of labour force signifies that most of these jobs were low-skilled or unskilled –like domestic work— so they didn’t necessarily benefit from skilled or semi-skilled jobs.

For academics, a more accurate way of measuring women’s advancement in the economy is by looking at average earnings and the gender wage gap. Generally what has been observed is that women earn less than men for the same kind of work. Women already in the labour force struggle to make headway in their careers.

Another vital indicator that needs to be addressed is the sex ratio, which gauges the social condition particularly with respect to women’s status of any society. Low sex ratio shows indulgence of artificial interventions, distorting the biological trend and natural balance in terms of number of females per thousand males. An important concern in the present state of Jammu and Kashmir’s demographic transition relates to adverse sex ratio. The sex-ratio as per census 2001 is 892 (females per thousand males) which is unfavorable to the women of the state. The position is worse in the urban areas where the sex ratio is only 819 as against 917 in rural areas as per the Census 2001.

Over the past two decades, conflict in Jammu and Kashmir has affected the valley people, especially the women, either by displacing them from their livelihoods or leaving them without any job. Women have been raped, tortured, injured and murdered. There are many studies that amply show how indifferent attitude of authorities and societal norms have multiplied their miseries. Duo rape and murder of two women allegedly by troopers at Shopian is a latest occurrence in this regard. Women activists from New Delhi have accused the Jammu and Kashmir government of manipulating the evidence in the Shopian twin-rape-and-murder case in order to shield those guilty in the heinous crime.

There is an immediate need to improve the access and availability of basic amenities, and also address external concerns like shelter space, transport and overall security level of the poor women, so as to enhance their standards of living and to facilitate their participation in the urban market. Inequality at all levels with women is aggravating and seeks an urgent but long-term solution.

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