COVID-19: Kerala companies lending support to women

Thiruvananthapuram: Women have suffered twice over during COVID-19 – many have lost their jobs, and they are burdened with additional work at home because family members are all working out of home, necessitating more household work, particularly in the kitchen.

Nowhere would this be felt more than in Kerala, the only major state in India which has more women than men, and where the ratio of women’s participation in formal work has traditionally lagged.

COVID-19 has added to the already trying times of Kerala women, pushing many of them out of work and forcing them to take up additional family responsibilities.

Many who have been pushed out of work have now taken up whatever jobs they can find. Like M. Valsamma, who used to earn roughly Rs 750 per day in Kottayam district, working with a catering firm. When she lost her job, she took up work as a maid for only Rs 350 per day.

“The pandemic put an end to mega wedding functions, affecting the catering industry and even now when events are allowed with a restriction on number of guests, hardly half of us have been recalled”, says Valsamma.

Corporate concern

But some companies in the state had taken note of the situation and are coming forward to lend support to women, offering them formal jobs.

Kochi-based Careon Health Care Solutions, a major in a wide range of surgical consumables in India including surgical gowns and drapes, gave special focus on hiring women during the pandemic, hiring as many as 100 women over the past year.

“As much as 80 per cent of our 550-strong team now comprise of women. This is a good way to not only ensure that more women are employed in formal jobs but also to reach money into families.Women staff rarely misuse their incomes”, James George, managing director of Careon told Gulf News.

Careon had not been in the PPE kit-making niche before, but the pandemic prompted it to get into that market. The foray was so successful that an Indian Army helicopter came to Kochi to pick up PPE kits manufactured by Careon.

Joining bonus for women

Another Kochi-based company, SurveySparrow recently announced a Rs-50,000 joining bonus for women, in a gesture towards promoting women’s presence in formal employment.

SurveySparrow, which specializes in experience solutions, announced the unique hiring initiative exclusive for women in technology who apply for positions of product developers, QA and technical writers.

Studies by the Centre for Science & Environment, a Delhi based non-profit organization, had shown only 16 per cent of employed women were able to keep their jobs during the lockdown.

“Reports claim female labour force participation rate (LFPR) has hit its lowest since Independence, It is imperative that we all do something to remedy that. SurveySparrow will make our staff gender ratio at least 50:50, from the current 30:70 female:male ratio”, company founder-CEO Shihab Muhammed said

Incomes of an estimated 740 million women in the informal economy globally fell 60 per cent in the first month of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a September 2020 report by the UN.

Local media in Kerala has reported that as of 2017-18, female job-seekers in Kerala accounted for a whopping 63 per cent of the total persons seeking employment in the state, with the highest figures reported from Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode and Kollam.

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