The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Now, panel to probe gender bias at work

New Delhi, May 12: The Centre today set up a five-member panel to look into all forms of workplace discrimination, especially against women, following an International Labour Organisation report that said the fairer sex is getting a raw deal.

“Women are by far the largest discriminated group all over the world. The ‘glass ceiling’ and the ‘pay gap’ between women and men continue to be significant in most countries although more and more women are working,” said the report released here this morning.

Of all forms of discrimination rooted in race, colo- ur, religion and caste, gender-based discrimination is most rampant. Increasing the list is the growing discrimination against HIV\AIDS patients, especially women.

“This takes many forms, including pre-employment testing leading to a refusal to hire, testing of long-term foreign visitors before entering a country and in some countries mandatory tests for migrant workers,” the report stressed, though it did not focus on any particular country.

Union labour minister Sahib Singh Verma, confronted with the ILO findings, hastily set up the five-member committee. “The committee, comprising lawyers, bureaucrats and members of the Indian Labour Institute, will give its report by May 31,” the minister said while releasing the report on equality at work.

Women’s organisations said the report’s findings had vindicated their stand that women were only getting crumbs despite the government’s assertion that globalisation had opened up new work avenues for them.

“Women are being pushed into lower-paid jobs in the unorganised sector. They may be learning new skills but their salaries have not risen correspondingly. The garment sector is a very good example of this,” said Jyotsna Chatterjee of the Joint Women’s Programme.

According to the ILO report, export-led industrial development has opened up many industrial occupations to women, “without, however, decreasing gender inequalities within occupation in terms of pay, authority (and) career advancement possibilities”.

The report underlined that men are likely to be in core or regular and better remunerated positions whereas women are more often than not in “peripheral, insecure (and) less valued” positions.

There are also disproportionately more part-time women workers than men, while domestic service is almost exclusively for women.

While a higher proportion of women is found in health, education and social services, they are seldom found in product development and corporate finance and are mostly in lower management levels of administration, the report said.

Citing examples, the report said the two burgeoning occupations in the information technology sector were those of computer programmer and analyst. “The little evidence available shows that occupational gender segregation persists in these new areas of work,” it added.

In the 1990s, for instance, women’s participation in these occupations dropped in several countries, the largest decline occurring in Poland. In Hong Kong and China, there was a small increase of 1.9 per cent.

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