In a move that promises to empower women by giving them a socio-economic uplift, the Punjab Cabinet has approved 33% reservation for women in direct recruitment in government departments, boards and corporations. The aim is to fill around one lakh vacant posts by 2022, when the term of the Capt Amarinder Singh-led Congress government in the state ends. The time-bound plan, though welcome, comes with a scent of ‘better late than never’, leaving a whiff of lost opportunities in the past three years for the Punjabans. For, the decision to provide the quota to women in jobs, a poll pledge, was taken over three years ago at the first Cabinet meeting held in March 2017 after the present government came to power. The state must make good the loss by delivering post haste now. The implementation process needs to be quick and transparent so as not to further eat into the job aspirants’ prospects.
It will also go a long way in correcting the skewed gender statistics of Punjab. As per a government report, women account for just a quarter of the staff. This, despite the 50% reservation for women in the teachers’ cadre. Reflecting the patriarchal mindset — that holds back women from going all out for financial liberation — is the fact that less than one-third of the job seekers in the employment exchange are women. It is a pity, given that there is no dearth of meritorious women candidates. The percentage of girls passing out of colleges and universities — and, with distinction — is steadily increasing as compared to boys. Punjab needs to work harder to catch up with the national average in the female workforce, too. A sixth Economic Census document released in 2014 shows that the percentage of female workers in the total persons employed is 18.21% in Punjab as against the 25.56% at the national level.
Even as the government provides ‘ghar ghar rozgar’, it needs to introspect why, as per a Niti Aayog study, fewer women are stepping out to earn their livelihood in the past decade. Evidence points at patriarchy and the non-congenial atmosphere for women at most workplaces. The problem must be fixed. For, the economy cannot improve until 50% of the population feels safe to contribute its mite.