About 43 per cent of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and startups plan to hire women in the next 6 months, according to a survey by community platform LocalCircles.
While the last 8 months of the Covid-19 pandemic have been tough in terms of new employment of women with small businesses, the 6-month outlook does look a bit better.
LocalCricles said that growth is coming back in many sectors. Work-from-home has become a new normal for many of the technology-driven businesses and for white-collar jobs, even in traditional businesses. “This is likely to help more women find job opportunities in the coming months,” said LocalCircles, which received over 7,000 responses for the survey from startups and MSMEs spread across the country.
India’s startups and MSMEs ecosystem went through a very difficult time due to the pandemic and the following lockdown. With revenues and operations getting impacted for most businesses, many ended up cutting costs and some even shut down temporarily or permanently. As per the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) 6 million Indians had already lost white-collar jobs in the March-August period.
LocalCircles conducted the survey to understand the startup and MSME pulse on their workforce adjustments due to Covid. It focused on how the employment of women has changed in their business. It also focused on the hiring outlook for women in the next 6 months.
In 2017, the government passed the Maternity (Amendment) Bill that increased the right to paid maternity leave for working women from 3 months to 6 months – the third highest in the world.
Although this was great news for nursing mothers, a ripple effect of this decision was noticed in many small businesses. They reduced the hiring of women in their organisations, purely due to financial reasons and the cost of funding maternity leave benefits, according to LocalCircles.
Though the Government came back and moved a proposal allowing companies to file reimbursement of 7 of the 26 weeks of maternity pay, there were few takers amongst small businesses.
Due to Covid, LocalCircles said women’s employment situation has also changed. Many children are now studying by attending online classes from home. Working women have been juggling between running the household, attending to children and delivering on their work commitments.
Small businesses were asked about how the employment of women has been in their business, with 8 months into the pandemic.
In response, 7 per cent said women in their workforce have been reduced by 50-100 per cent. About 12 per cent said this workforce has decreased by 25-50 per cent and another 12 per cent said this minimised by up to 25 per cent.
About 46 per cent said they still have the same number of women in the workforce as pre-Covid-19. Not a single business reported an increase in the number of women employees during the course of the 8 months of the pandemic.
LocalCircles said this means that 31 per cent of small businesses in India have reduced women workforce in the last 8 months. The Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) among women in India, is one of the lowest in the world and appears to have slid even further during the pandemic.
Overall, the survey showed that 78 per cent of small businesses in India have reduced their workforce in the last 8 months since the outbreak of the pandemic. About 22 per cent of these businesses have the same or increased workforce compared to pre-Covid levels.
The Government also took steps to help these small businesses through the Atmanirbhar Bharat scheme. But, according to LocalCircles, its advantages as per the feedback from businesses in July this year have been limited.