Labour law changes can boost women employment in retail

Tags: News
Employment of women in retail is less than 20 per cent in India, because of the labour laws. Amendment to laws and better civic infrastructure will make more women opt for retail jobs and solve the problem of labour shortage in the sector, say retailers.

The retail sector, which employs more than 33 million people, faces 15 per cent manpower shortage and high level of attrition.

“The current labour laws do not allow women to work in stores after eight in the night, but they do not apply to sectors like information technology and business process outsourcing. The stores are much safer for women with customers coming in. We have been asking the government to amend the laws so that women can work extended hours at night,” said Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO of the Retailers Association of India.

According to him, many retailers do not want to employ women in larger numbers as their service will not be available when it is needed the most. Almost 25 per cent of business happens in the two hours after 8 pm.

Vasanth Kumar, executive director of Max Retail, says around 40 per cent of the store business happens between 6 pm and 9 pm. Max Retail has over 15 per cent women employed in its stores. In some of the developed countries women employment in the retail sector is as high as 50 per cent.

If the labour laws were relaxed, in India too women would account for 50 per cent of the workforce, said Rajagopal.

“The issue of women’s safety can be handled well if the cities have better connectivity. In Delhi, we drop our women employees at the metro rail stations. The government can improve the infrastructure in cities to reduce travel time. Once the working hours for women are extended, we can also introduce shift system for store employees,” said Kumar.

Further, retailers also seek amendment to laws that ask the stores to shut one day a week for the sake of employees. “This is an old law of the mom-and-pop-shop era. Today every employee of an organised retail company can get weekly off without the store sacrificing its sales. We have to apply for special licence in each state for this now and get it renewed at regular intervals,” he said .

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