Blue-collar jobs refer to the manual labor industry consisting of a workforce of both skilled and unskilled people. This includes, but is not limited to, the farming, construction, trucking, shipping, and manufacturing sector.
Ideally, in a country like India, where the blue-collar labor force is strong, there should be an abundance of workers. However, for women of the country, the scenario is still not too bright. Despite half the population being female, only 19.9% of the labor force consists of women in India.
Amidst the pandemic in 2020, there has been a rise of work from home marketing jobs. However, almost 6.7 million blue-collar female workers lost their jobs at that time.
The question still remains- why is the blue-collar workforce still male-dominated in India?
Reason Behind a Male-Dominated Workforce
In the past few years, there has been a lot of implementation of training programs for the white-collar workforce. However, not enough initiative has been taken to enable them.
For industries like manufacturing, construction, transportation, and logistics, the need for skilled workers is high. As more companies are proceeding towards an automated operation post the pandemic, this process is further hastened.
So, what could be the reason that a female population of more than 6 million is still not inclined to fit in the blue-collar sector?
Lack of Infrastructure for The Female Blue-Collar Workforce
Despite the combined efforts of the National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and the government since 2008, this remains a prevalent issue. Along with this, the lack of flexible timing and a healthy climate can also be deemed responsible.
Since 2010, Indian corporates have been taking an equalist approach in hiring people from all genders and social backgrounds. But most of these have been limited to white-collar jobs. Therefore, the blue-collar workforce of the city still remains male-dominated.
Traditional Societal Stigma Associated with Blue-Collar Jobs
Blue-collar jobs often require handling heavy machinery and require certain skills. In addition, the cultural norms often prohibit women from taking up such jobs as they are often under the obligation of tending to their families. However, more often than not, this stands true for all women, not just the blue-collar workers.
Also, people have a tough time accepting women in certain jobs. Ask Sushama Middle, the only female uber driver in Kolkata, and she will tell you how awkward it gets. She recalls how asking for a commercial driver’s license shocked everyone, including her instructor.
Safety of Women Being a Major Concern
Unfortunately, women’s safety is a real issue in India. Women working in white-collar jobs face this too. Due to this, women often avoid taking night-shift jobs. Not all companies offer flexible timing yet, and therefore, managing work-life becomes difficult for a lot of women.
However, not all is bad news. According to the National Crime Record Board (NCRB), Kolkata has been termed the safest city for women in India, thus providing some hope for improvement.
Lack of Education Still Being a Barrier
West Bengal has a literacy rate of 80.5% and is in 10th place among the Indian states with the highest literacy rate. The female literacy rate is 70.54% which is still lower than the male literacy rate.
Even the female labor force participation rate (FLFPR) has never been very impressive either. The female white-collar workers face a lot of stigmas.
However, it is not just traditional education that is required for being a professional. Many factors, like global exposure to culture and mindset, also play a significant role here. And with the blue-collar jobs also needing some upscaling, the same needs to be done for the female workforce.
No Support from Society
Sadly, most blue-collar jobs in India are taken up by immigrants and the illiterate population. When women do show interest in these jobs, they face a lot of judgment instead of support.
Take Sushama Midde’s example as she recalls her struggle to give the driving test required for her Uber license. But even without any cooperation from her instructor, friends, and the organization, she achieved almost an impossible dream. Not everyone has Sushama’s willpower. That does not mean they do not deserve the opportunity.
How to Hire Female Blue-Collar Workers
Though women in India continue facing unfavorable conditions, the blue-collar workforce needs more female participation. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, few blue-collar jobs survived. As more job openings for medical technicians, customer care executives, and delivery executives arise, the female workforce cannot be ignored.
As more skill-based blue-collar jobs arrive, the need for women to upscale themselves will increase. Successful implementation of community programs along with incentive-based training can be immensely beneficial in this.
Also, AI-based job portals offer scope for native language speakers and can prove to be of great help. In an environment of constant learning, women can upgrade themselves to stay relevant to the industry requirements.
Flexible Working Policies
Most married women fall out of their job due to family obligations. Addressing this issue with flexible working hours is a step towards progress. Also, implementing friendlier work policies will attract the female workforce to join.
With the transportation and delivery giants like Flipkart and Uber paving the way, other companies and startups can follow their lead.
A blue-collar job does not have to mean a low-income or low-status profession. Howrah’s Mohima Khatun is an example of that. The state-level football player and coach became a few of India’s female delivery persons for Flipkart in October 2020.
Her reason was quite simple- she found indoor jobs boring. Being part of a delivery network may be rare for women, but the increasing number is encouraging.
In a world of digital literacy, there is a constant need for intelligent workers. Previously, blue-collar work was mostly limited to physical labor. However, the scenario now requires a smarter workflow. Companies need to come together to figure out how to hire blue-collar workers that include the female workforce equally. The only solution is to provide flexible work policies to women and remove the stigma associated with certain professions.