1 Why Indian women are leaving work (Soutik Biswas on BBC) Why are millions of women dropping out of work in India? The numbers are stark – for the first time in India’s recent history, not only there was a decline in the female labour participation rate, but also a shrinking of the total number of women in the workforce.
Nearly 20 million Indian women quit work between 2004-05 and 2011-12. The labour force participation rate for women of working age declined from 42% in 1993-94 to 31% in 2011-12. Some 53% of the total drop – the largest chunk – happened among women aged 15-24 and living in villages. In rural areas, the female labour force participation rate dropped from 49% to 37.8% between 2004-05 and 2009-10.
While more than 24 million men joined the work force between 2004-5 to 2009-10, the number of women in the work force dropped by 21.7 million. A team of researchers from World Bank have attempted to find out why this is happening. One plausible explanation is the recent expansion of secondary education and rapidly changing social norms leading to “more working age young females opting to continue their education rather than join the labour force early”.
Also, casual workers – mainly women – drop out of the workforce when wages increased for regular earners – mainly men – leading to the stabilisation of family incomes. To be sure, India has a poor record of female participation in the workforce: the International Labour Organisation ranked it 121 out of 131 countries in 2013.
2 Low unemployment but people feel worse off (Larry Elliott in The Guardian) Britain looks like a full employment economy. The unemployment rate is at its lowest since 1975. There are hundreds of thousands of job vacancies.
But Britain doesn’t feel like a full employment economy. When the jobless rate was this low in previous economic cycles, wages were rising because employers were competing for scarce labour. Firms were investing in new capital equipment because workers were becoming more expensive. Productivity was increasing.
Today none of that is happening. Wage growth is not picking up. Instead, it is stuck at the new normal of 2%. There are skill shortages but this is not translating into higher average earnings. Investment is weak and productivity is falling because the growth in the employed population is running ahead of the increase in national output.
John Philpott, an economist who specialises in employment, is right when he says the UK labour market looks better on paper than it feels in the pocket. It is unprecedented for record levels of employment to coincide with the workforce getting poorer.
One reason for the weakness of earnings growth is the ferocious squeeze on public sector pay, which – stripped of bonus payments – is rising at just 1.3% a year. A second factor is that employers are able to buy in cheap labour from overseas.
Finally, the nature of work seems to have changed. Work by David Blanchflower, Rui Costa and Stephen Machin has shown that earnings growth for the self-employed – who account for 15% of the workforce – has been particularly weak in recent years. People are working flat out in the gig economy but still struggling to make ends meet. The labour market has, for want of a better word, been Uberised.
3 South Africa turning ‘increasingly violent’ (Thabo Mokone in Johannesburg Times) Justice and correctional services minister Michael Masutha says prison population figures suggests that South Africa is increasingly becoming a violent society.
Masutha told MPs that long prison sentences of between 10 and 15 years increased by 77 percent‚ while the number of short sentences of between six and 12 months dropped by 51 percent in the years between 2003 and 2016. He said in the same period the number of offenders sentenced to 20 years and more had risen by a “staggering 439%” while those sentenced to life imprisonment had skyrocketed by a whopping 413%.
He said these figures were the main reason behind rising overcrowding in prisons and they also showed that the country was increasingly becoming more violent. Long term prison sentences were generally meted out against people committing serious crimes such as murder‚ assault‚ rape and other forms of sexual violence and robberies with aggravating circumstances among others.
“This says that we are increasingly becoming a violent society‚” he said. “Looking at these figures‚ there is an urgent need to create additional bed space (in prisons) and take extra levels of care over existing infrastructure which is dilapidating due to limited maintenance.