Logistics and the gender gap in the workforce – The New Indian Express

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Express press service

NEW DELHI: Even though everything came to a standstill during the Covid-19 pandemic, one sector was constantly changing, in fact faster than ever: logistics. Data from various employment agencies suggests that the rapid adoption of technology and the growth of related sectors has led to the expansion of the logistics sector, which has also become one of the main job creators. .

According to industry estimates, the sector employed nearly 21.24 million people in 2016 and that number is expected to exceed 30 million by the end of 2022. So where is the problem? Well, it lies in the fact that one of the most job-creating sectors creates opportunities primarily for men.

The employment situation in the country has been dire lately. Employment is down, women’s employment even more so. According to the CMIE, India’s unemployment problem soared to 7.83% in April from 7.60% in March. More worryingly, the labor market participation rate for women (LFPR) is only 20.6%, which is significantly lower than that of men at 73.6%, according to the periodic quarterly force survey. (PLFS) (current weekly situation) October-December 2021. From this situation, in 2021, India fell 28 places in the Global Gender Gap Index and ranked 140 out of 156 countries . It was during the same period that the gender gap widened by 3% due to the decline in women’s participation in the labor force.

In the context of this scenario, imagine a sector that employs an ever-increasing number of people but is largely inaccessible to women. This problem, if left unaddressed, can lead to a further widening of the gender gap. The growth of e-commerce, the emergence of direct-to-consumer (D2C) businesses, and digitalization have all worked in favor of the logistics industry. In India, the sector is estimated at 200 billion dollars with a contribution of more than 14% to the country’s GDP. According to industry studies, the Indian e-commerce logistics industry is expected to reach Rs 492.4 billion by 2025.

The gender divide

Although there is no hard data, industry estimates suggest that only 20% of women are employed in the sector. Moreover, only 1% of commercial driving licenses are held by women, according to a report by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (2018). The gender gap in the sector is stark. Most people may never have met a delivery partner for delivering food or any other packages. It is not a coincidence but the state of things. Until June 2021, food delivery platform Zomato had less than 0.5% of its delivery partners as women. Swiggy also has over 200,000 delivery partners, of which only 1,000 (0.5%) are women.

Currently, Amazon India has five women-only delivery stations in Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala. The company has nearly 1,650 delivery stations. None of the companies mentioned responded to questions TNIE sent them about the latest figures for female delivery partners and whether they have set up a harassment cell, a major deterrent to potential female employees on the road and in the warehouses.

It’s getting better, but not enough

According to the Randstad Research team, the progressive digitization and automation of the sector has led to the creation of new jobs and the transformation of old ones. This has created more opportunities for female employees working in this industry, with the percentage of female employees increasing from 8-10% to 20-25% over the past 10-12 years.

Many e-commerce companies are setting up fulfillment centers and undertaking initiatives to improve gender diversity. Women hold a third of sorting, packing, loading and customer support jobs this year, up from nearly a tenth three or four years ago, according to Ajoy Thomas, vice president and chief executive officer. company (retail, e-commerce, logistics and transportation), TeamLease Services. A recent report by human resources consultancy start-up Vahan indicates that delivery companies could see the female workforce double to 15%. On the ground, however, the change is not yet visible.

Recruit in logistics to multiply

With the pandemic-induced digital shift, hiring sentiment in the sector is more optimistic than ever. Thomas says hiring is expected to grow and the industry’s hiring intent stands at 63% for April-June 2022, which is a huge increase of almost 10% from the previous quarter. The different roles companies hire for, including data scientists, warehouse workers, supply chain managers, delivery people, customer service managers, call center operators, operations, machine learning, applied science, support functions, warehouse roles (movers, order pickers, packers, loaders etc).

Thomas believes that logistics companies help e-commerce and D2C businesses seamlessly manage supply chain and low-cost last-mile delivery operations. “India has more than 800 D2C brands, and the sector was worth $44.6 billion in 2021 and is expected to hit $100 billion by 2025. All of this will contribute to increased job opportunities for the next quarters.” Randstad also saw a 25-30% increase in hiring activity across industry verticals year-over-year, driven by increased demand for warehousing and delivery positions.

Augment the ecosystem

A key factor in improving gender parity in logistics is increasing the ecosystem for women. Sona Mitra, Senior Economist, Initiative for What Works to Advance Women and Girls in the Economy (IWWAGE) says that not making the sector accessible for women to enter would lead to further clustering of women in typical activities, leading to distortions labor market and an intensification of gender gaps in “Some platforms have made special provisions to create space for women during childbirth, but the nature of work has not yet become acceptable, from even that the opportunities are not yet available for women in general,” she said.

Mitra said it will compel companies to create spaces to employ women in these jobs – implying a list of employment changes that could make it easier for more women to join. “For example, women tend to struggle to deliver at odd hours in the evening – so security clauses need to be tightened and companies need to take responsibility, flexibility to accept or refuse jobs needs to be offered to female staff, flexible working hours are also key,” she said.

Yogesh Kumar, founder of Even Cargo, an all-female delivery platform, says that in its early days it was difficult to convince e-commerce companies to employ women. “Furthermore, there were countless hurdles that we faced with various stakeholders who were responsible for training women. However, the most difficult of all was to convince the women that they could join the logistics staff. The entire industry catered to male employees.

The delivery partners TNIE spoke to said they were well equipped for the job, but most of the time it gets uncomfortable as they only see men doing the job. It was not so much the nature of the work as its acceptance that was a deterrent. For some, however, more than perception, it is the lack of sanitary facilities, rest areas and lack of skills that are taken into account when choosing not to join the logistics workforce. .

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