ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Women in India's New Generation Jobs

Has increased access to employment opportunities, financial independence and educational attainments enabled women in urban India to exercise their freedom and agency? An examination of the information technology and business process outsourcing sectors shows that despite the glamour and an invoked sense of articulate modernity, women here continue to operate within a narrow paradigm. Its limits are constituted by gendered constructs that persist to encode women’s primary place within domesticity even as the vocabulary undergoes some cosmetic changes.

One of the turning points in India’s growth has been the liberalisation of the economy in response to the neo-liberal compulsions that thrive on a free-market regime. Despite contradictory and contested views about its effect on women’s participation in the labour market and recent fluctuations, scholars are unanimous that the post-liberalisation period has seen women’s workforce participation in the urban labour market go up. Apart from the growth of contractual and flexible labour that the shift of production from an assembly-line Fordist model to a more flexible regime has brought in, the past few years have also seen an impressive expansion in the outsourcing of business services from countries of the North to labour-intensive countries of the South. This has been facilitated by information and communication technologies (ICTs).

In addition to supportive political and economic changes, India’s location in an appropriate time zone and labour’s lower wages in general have made it a significant player in ICT-enabled services. Its advantage also stems from its standing in the knowledge economy and competence in using the English language (Taylor and Bain 2010). Overall, these developments are largely based in urban India because of the required skills and better infrastructure. It is not surprising, therefore, that the urban labour markets have become very important to such enterprises, in the case of men and more so women (Sen and Raju 2012). The continuous spread of higher education among women in India is undisputed, even though several issues of concern remain (Raju 2010; Sahni and Shankar 2012). This is not to overlook the much larger share of women workers in informal sectors of the urban economy, which depends on varying demand for products and market uncertainties. This has led to the emergence of temporary and contingent workers and general erosion in job security (Mazumdar 2005: 8).

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