Data from the rural development ministry’s MIS on NREGS from 2016 shows that the proportion of women accounting for persondays of work has been more than 50%, way higher than the statutory requirement of one-third mark.
In 2019-20, women accounted for 54.7% of total 265.2 crore persondays generated for the entire year. The 2020-2021 data reflects the trends from April to September and it is significant to note that 204.7 crore persondays of work has already been generated due to the high demand during the pandemic. It is evident that women’s proportion to men in terms of persondays of work has not seen any rise during the pandemic and is in fact lower than last year’s total percentage. The access to work in the months ahead will be critical to see if the women manage to get to increase their persondays tally.
In terms of absolute numbers, however, as per the data on the Union rural development ministry’s NREGA MIS, over 4.3 crore women have been provided employment since April. This number is clearly higher than the total participation recorded over the last five years going by the data shared by the ministry in Parliament in a written response to a question in Lok Sabha in March where they informed that in 2019-20 (up to February 27) 3.9 crore women got work under MNREGS. This number was 4 crore in 2018-19, 3.9 crore in 2017-18 and 3.9 crore in 2016-17.
So while more women got work under MNREGS this year so far, in terms of persondays they clearly got tough competition from men or lost the opportunity to work due to factors arising out of the pandemic including household and care giving responsibilities. The pandemic has made many more men in rural India turn towards the scheme amid joblessness. The return of migrants to villages further increased the demand for work.
As many as 5.9 crore households have got work under NREGS since April this year and on average, the number of households that worked under the scheme in the last year was 5.5 crore. Also 8.8 lakh families have already completed 100 days of work. This growth in demand has brought focus on concerns that women’s participation may be affected due to socio-economic factors and gender biases.
In 2018-19 women accounted for 54.6% of total persondays of work generated. In 2017-18, it was 53.5% and in 2016-17 they accounted for a significant 56.2% persondays of work.