Bridging the Gender Pay Gap in India

NEW DELHI | Updated: 18 December, 2023 4:38 pm IST

India is a country of paradoxes, where rapid economic growth and social transformation coexist with persistent inequalities and injustices. One of the most glaring and persistent problems is the gender pay gap, which refers to the difference between the average earnings of men and women for the same work. According to a report by the International Labour Organization (ILO), the gender pay gap in India stands at 27% as of 2023, meaning that women in India earn 73% of what men earn for doing the same job. This gap is even wider in certain industries, such as the technology sector, where women earn just 60% of what men earn.

The Chief Justice of India has recently expressed his concern about the gender pay gap in India. He has highlighted the fact that Indian women, especially those belonging to marginalised communities, face disparities in remuneration compared to their male counterparts, despite making significant contributions to the economy and society. He has also emphasized the need for the state to support the weaker sections of the population in a democracy, and to ensure that they have equal opportunities and rights.

CJI’s remarks came during a lecture on ‘Gender Justice and the Indian Constitution’, delivered at the University of Oxford on December 16, 2023. There are prevailing gender stereotypes and norms that discriminate against women and limit their potential. Homemakers are often undervalued and unpaid for their domestic work and they should be recognised as equal partners and contributors to the household and the nation. The CJI in his lecture also cited the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court in the Rajesh Sharma case, which granted compensation to a homemaker who died in a road accident, based on the notional income she would have earned if she had been employed.

The privacy and security of women in the digital age, where they are vulnerable to online harassment, cybercrime, and surveillance are a matter of concern. There is a need for a robust legal framework and institutional mechanism to protect the dignity and autonomy of women in cyberspace. The CJI had also referred to the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Puttaswamy case, which recognised the right to privacy as a fundamental right, and laid down the principles for data protection and consent.

There ought to be greater collaboration and cooperation between the legal systems of various countries, especially in the Commonwealth, to ensure equal access to justice for all, irrespective of gender, caste, religion, or nationality. The role of the judiciary as a guardian of constitutional values and human rights needs to be highlighted and the judges and lawyers ought to adopt a gender-sensitive and inclusive approach in their work. The use of technology to bring the courtroom closer to the people and to make the justice delivery system more efficient and transparent should be advocated.

The gender pay disparity in India extends beyond being inequitable and discriminatory; it poses a significant threat to the country’s economic vitality. This wage gap is indicative of women’s underrepresentation and undervaluation in the workforce, resulting in the depletion of talent, diversity, and overall productivity. Furthermore, it detrimentally impacts the well-being and empowerment of women and their families by diminishing income and purchasing power, thereby perpetuating gender inequality and poverty.

Importantly, the gender pay gap is not an unavoidable or irreversible phenomenon in India. It holds the potential for reduction and elimination through dedicated and sustained efforts from various stakeholders, encompassing governmental bodies, industries, academic institutions, and civil society.

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