Safety is a big issue, they say
Women working in factories are happy with the Karnataka government’s announcement that they can work in the night shift, but are not ready to do so because of societal norms.
The Observer noticed many women working in garment and footwear factories in the industrial areas of Peenya and Dasarahalli.
Brinda Adige, a women’s activist, said: “When it comes to the night shift, transportation and safety are very important. Also, we live in a patriarchal society, and our mindsets still haven’t changed. I don’t know how the government made this announcement when the requisite safety measures aren’t looked into. But I believe that in due course of time, things will change.” The IT sector is different from factories, where women have a lot of restrictions.
“They cannot even use the washroom when they want to. They are paid less than men. They have been asking for an increase in wages for a long time. A woman working in the night shift will suffer health issues, but it is wholly the individual’s choice,” she added.
The government on Wednesday announced that female employees of factories are allowed to work in the night shift, from 7pm to 6am, changing the policy that was applicable only to male workers.
Sandhiya, who works in a garment factory, said: “We do not have night shift here but many factories do. Women, too, can work in the night shift Iike men but they are not allowed to. Families won’t agree to women working in the night even though there are facilities and safety provided.”
Savitha, a tailor who works at Texport India Pvt Ltd, said: “The number of women working in garment factories is more than that of number of men. In the factory that I work in, women do the tailoring work and men do the ironing work. We work only till 6pm as we have to go home, look after our children and cook.”
Ellama, another garment worker, said: “Even if we have a shift system, I will not work after 6pm. My family will not allow me to work. My husband works in a factory nearby. He comes home late, but if I work late, I will be questioned.”
Raghu, who is in charge of the tailoring segment in a garment factory, said: “Here, more than 80% of the workers are women. They work here from 10am to 6pm. We provide them all facilities.”
About the government’s announcement, he said: “Women prefer to go home by 6pm. So we follow this timing. Women who work in factories that have the night shift may consider working at night, but many may not agree due to their own reasons.”
The Observer was unable to contact the labour commissioner for his comment.
According to a Deloitte report, quoted by The Hindu Business Line, women in India’s labour force were 26% in 2018, down from 36.7% in 2005.
The state government’s announcement said women can work in the night shift in factories that are registered under the Factories Act, 1948, and it is not compulsory.
The conditions for employing women in the night shift include measures to prevent and address sexual harassment; providing appropriate working conditions and equal opportunity devoid of discrimination.
In May 2016, the Union government asked the states to take the initiative to allow women to work the night shift in factories as part of a plan to improve participation of women in the workforce.
Photo courtesy: KPN