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The Pandemic’s Impact On Wages


  • India plays an important role in the global economic growth and structural transformation story. However, asymmetries continue to abound (exist in large numbers) in the country’s labour market.
  • A commensurate improvement in its labour market outcomes, as well as a more equitable distribution of the fruits of economic progress, will spur further economic growth and the benefits that it brings.


GS Paper 1: Role of women and women’s organization, population and associated issues, poverty and developmental issues.

GS Paper 2: Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the society, institutions and laws for the protection and betterment of vulnerable sections etc

Mains Question

Closing the gender pay gap is critical to achieving social justice as well as national economic growth. Discuss. (250 Words)


  • On September 18, the Third International Equal Pay Day 2022 was observed.
  • The symbolic day aims to highlight issues and raise global awareness in order to put an end to the history of gender discrimination that women are generally subjected to by being paid less than their male counterparts.

The pandemic’s impact

  • While the full extent of the pandemic’s impact is unknown, it is clear that it has been uneven, with women suffering the most in terms of income security.
    • This is due in part to their representation in COVID-19-affected sectors, as well as the gendered division of family responsibilities.
    • During the pandemic, many women reverted to full-time care of children and the elderly, foregoing their livelihoods in the process.


  • A wider pay gap: According to the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) “Global Wage Report 2020-21,” the Covid-19 crisis put massive downward pressure on wages.
    • The COVID-19 pandemic had a disproportionate impact on female workers in terms of job and income losses, implying that the already-existing gender pay gap has widened.
  • Back pedalling progress: According to preliminary estimates from the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) 2020-21, the gap increased by 7% between 2018-19 and 2020-21 due to the pandemic.
    • The data also suggests that a faster decline in female wages during the pandemic contributed to this gap, while male wages grew faster.
  • Lagging behind global standards: Despite significant progress in closing the gender pay gap in India over time, the gap remains large by international standards.
    • Compared to their male counterparts, Indian women earned 48% less in 1993-94.
    • According to National Sample Survey Office labour force survey data from 2018-19, the gap shrank to 28%. (NSSO).

As a factor, discrimination

  • Globally, women are paid approximately 20% less than men. Though the gender pay gap is widely blamed on discrimination based on gender or sex, individual characteristics such as education, skills, or experience also play a role.
  • The following are examples of gender-based discriminatory practises:
    • Women are paid less for work of equal value.
    • Undervaluation of women’s work in highly feminised occupations and businesses; o Motherhood pay gap, i.e. lower wages for mothers when compared to non-mothers.

Actions to Combat Gender Inequality

  • At the international level, the United Nations has prioritised addressing various forms of gender inequality.
    • The International Labour Organization’s Constitution includes the phrase “equal pay for equal work.” o The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) provides an international legal framework for achieving gender equality and addressing intersecting forms of discrimination and vulnerabilities among women and girls.
  • Goals for Sustainable Development: By 2030, one of the UN SDG 8 targets is to “achieve full and productive employment and decent work for all women and men, including young people and people with disabilities, and equal pay for work of equal value.”
    • In support of this Goal, the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC) was established in 2017 as a multi-stakeholder initiative led by the ILO, UN Women, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to achieve equal pay for men and women everywhere.

The Indian strategy

  • Legislative initiatives: India was a pioneering country in enacting the Minimum Wages Act in 1948, followed by the Equal Remuneration Act in 1976, to close the gender pay gap, particularly at the low end of the wage distribution.
    • In 2019, India implemented comprehensive reforms to both of the aforementioned laws and enacted the Wage Code.
  • Policy initiatives: According to evidence, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) of 2005 benefited rural women workers and indirectly helped reduce the gender pay gap.
    • Directly by increasing the pay levels of women workers who took part in the programme
    • Indirect benefits accrued to women in agricultural occupations through higher earnings, as MGNREGA contributed to the country’s rapid rise in rural and agricultural wages.
  • Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act: In 2017, the government amended the Maternity Benefit Act of 1961, increasing the’maternity leave with pay protection’ for the first two children for all women working in establishments employing 10 or more workers from 12 weeks to 26 weeks.
  • Government schemes: The Skill India Mission is attempting to equip women with market-relevant skills in order to bridge the learning-to-livelihood and gender pay gaps.

The way forward

  • A human-centered recovery from the pandemic is required for full and productive economic growth, which will be made possible by improving women’s employment outcomes and closing the gender pay gap.
  • While the gender pay gap is gradually closing, it will take more than 70 years to close completely at the current rate of progress.
  • Accelerated and bold action is required to prevent the gender pay gap from widening and to close the existing gap. Equal pay for equal work is critical to achieving social justice for working women as well as economic growth for the country as a whole.

June 2024