Challenges Faced By Working Women(GS-1 Course Material)2020-21(UPSC)


Working women face problems at the workplace just by virtue of their being women. The demands and pressures of effort make complex to stretch time for balancing work-life activities. The ever-increasing work pressure is taking a charge on the working women leaving them with less time for themselves.

  • Women’s work participation rates have fallen sharply – from 29 per cent in 2004-5 to 22 per cent in 2011-12 and to 17 per cent in 2017-18.
  • 14 per cent of the overall women workforce is employed in the formal sector.

What are the challenges faced?

  • Sexual Harassment
  • Gender Pay Gap
  • Climbing the Career Ladder– very less women get promotion to higher posts.
  • Appearance– judgement over the appearance is common in society and workplace.
  • Work-Life Imbalance
  • Health– Three out of four working women in India suffer from lifestyle, chronic or acute ailments due to the pressure from trying to balance their personal and professional lives, according to an ASSOCHAM survey.
  • Job Security– often firing of women employees is considered easy by the employers.
  • Relationship with colleagues– 53% of women says that still their workplace is male dominated.
  • Problem of transport
  • Lack of basic facilities– like toilets, restrooms, etc.
  • Dual responsibility– of family and work.
  • Working women and children– nourishing the child is the most challenging task for a working woman.
  • Restrictions on movement– often not allowed getting job in other areas other than their family town.

What protection they are provided with?

  • Equal Remuneration Act– give effect to the goal of equal pay for equal work set out in Article 39(d) of the Constitution.
  • Maternity Benefits Act, 2017
  • The Factories Act, 1948– regulating working hours and other essential facilities as required.
  • The Employee’s State Insurance Act, 1948
  • The Plantations Labour Act, 1951
  • The Mines Act, 1952
  • The Beedi and ·Cigar Workers (Conditions of Employment) Act, 1966– Safety and welfare benefits for women Beedi and Cigar Workers through toilets, restrooms, crèches, etc.
  • The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act, 1970
  • The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Services) Act, 1979.
  • Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
  • Vishakha Guidelines

What SC has adjudicated?

  • In Radha Charan Patnaik V. State of Orissa– SC held that Government Rule disqualifying married women from being selected as district judges violates Article 16.
  • C.B. Muthama V. Union of India– petitioner was refused posting as Indian Forest Service officer because she was married, SC rejected the Government’s arguments as violative of Article 16.
  • In Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan– pronouncing that the right to life for working women includes an environment free from sexual harassment.
  • In Apparel Export Promotion Council v. A.K Chopra– upheld its ruling in Vishakha’s Case.

Maternity Bill and Working women-

  • Increased the right to paid maternity leave for working women from 12 weeks to 26 weeks – the third highest in the world.
  • The law applies only to women working in companies with at least 10 employees. A mere 1.3% working women fit that criterion.
  • Positive effects
      • Stress free child care
      • Female mortality during child birth will go down
      • Women from unorganised sector will highly benefit
      • Perks for female employees will end, levelling the playing field
  • Negative impacts-

      • SME and start-ups cannot afford long leaves for employees
      • Male dominated job industry will not consider women for key positions
      • Accentuates resource unavailability
      • Male employees will consider the bill a disadvantage
      • Women might misuse the maternity bill benefits
      • Women might postpone starting a family

Way forward-

  • Gender equity– as provided under Articles 14, 15 and 16, to have a discrimination-free society.
  • Job security– to not fire an employee just because she is a female.
  • Basic amenities– providing toilets, restrooms, etc.
  • Crèches– for care of the baby of working parents.
  • Equal pay– as provided under Article 39.
  • Act against exploitation– it is a Fundamental Right under Article 23.
  • Working conditions for women– as enumerated under Article 42, 43 and 46.


The Economic Survey acknowledged and highlighted that the state should design policies that better involve women in the economy. It quoted the World Bank, noting that “no country can develop and achieve its full potential if half of its population is locked in non-remunerative, less productive and non-economic activities.”

Mains Question-

Half of the population can’t be made dependent on other half if India desires to be a superpower. Considering demographic dividend benefits that await India, examine the issues of working women and suggest remedies.


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