Distance keeps Indian women away from EPZ jobs

Preeti Mehra New Delhi | Updated on July 08, 2011


Women make up for an overwhelming majority of employment in export processing zones or EPZs in most countries, including neighbouring Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. India, though figures right at the bottom of the rung in terms of employing women, nestled with Arab countries for company, according to the latest “Progress of the World's Women 2011-12: In Pursuit of Justice” report released by UN Women.

Economic liberalisation may have given way to more export processing zones in the country, and EPZs may be relatively safer working environments, but Indian women make up only 30 per cent of the employment here. And what is surprising is that under employment laws, while India allows women to work the same hours as men at night, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh restrict women from night-hour work.

Commuting problem

Women's poor presence in EPZs in India is attributed to a variety of reasons. First, that traditionally women prefer employment close to their homes or even locate themselves close to their places of work. EPZs are mostly situated in the outskirts or remote locations, discouraging women from travelling to them. Employers too would like to avoid fulfilling the law of providing transport for late work.

“While educated women typically seek employment in the service or IT industry, in the lower economic rungs uneducated women constitute construction workers or farm labour,” said Mr D K Nair, Secretary General of the Confederation of Indian Textile Industry. He pointed out that even in garment and spinning factories that prefer to give employment to young women, the turnover has been found to be very high, adding to the labour shortage. “Girls who come to work in these factories after completing school inevitably leave the job as soon as they get married and move out of the location. It's part of our culture.”

Removing regulations

The report states that in recent years large numbers of women in developing countries are employed in EPZs and warns that in these areas labour and environment standards may be relaxed or eliminated in order to attract foreign investors or execute free trade agreements.

Published on July 07, 2011

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