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‘More women have been opting out of white-collar gig jobs in last two years’

‘More women have been opting out of white-collar gig jobs in last two years’

Two years of the pandemic have widened the gender gap in white-collar gig economy jobs in India, data from freelance platform Flexing It shows, suggesting that the new normal of working may be adding to the barriers women face at work.

Indian women are opting out of the workforce even as freelancers, according to data from the white-collar gig jobs platform which was shared exclusively with ET.

While the absolute number of women consultants registering as freelancers on the platform increased in FY22 from FY20, the percentage of women consultants vis-a-vis total new registrations dropped. New registrations by women dropped from 35% in FY20 to 32% in FY22, while over the last two years, total new consultant registrations on Flexing It grew by 25%. The absolute number of active women consultants currently stands at upwards of 16,000.

“This is an indication that women professionals are unfortunately dropping out of the workforce, instead of opting for independent consulting,” said Chandrika Pasricha, founder of Flexing It. This drop comes even as freelancing remains an underleveraged option for women, especially in India due to lack of access to reliable projects and information on benchmarking project fees, she said.

Gender issue experts and HR heads cited the burden of work-from-home and care-giving responsibilities as the key reasons women are leaving the workforce. Other reasons include the lack of a support system and shrinkage in jobs during the pandemic.

The pandemic has disrupted the workplace for women more disproportionately, according to a 2020 McKinsey Global Institute study, which said women’s jobs became 1.8 times more vulnerable due to the Covid-19 crisis. Sairee Chahal, founder of women-only community Sheroes, told ET that one way to look at the decline in the number of women in the white-collar gig economy is through the lens of the overall jobs market.

“If the job market is growing marginally, women will be elbowed out. If the emphasis is on the hiring of tech roles, there will be fewer women, as the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) tunnel is not strong. Add to that the unpredictability of the support system,” Chahal said. “Imagine a woman who runs a home also has to find work, raise her invoices, and deliver.”

There are exceptions in the form of structured frameworks for gig jobs. HUL’s gig work platform Open2U, which was launched in January 2022, has 40% women. “The Open2U community becomes our extended talent pool from which we can dip in flexibly and with speed to access diverse and niche skills,” a spokesperson for

said.

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