India has one of the lowest rates of female labor participation rates in the world. This is attributed primarily to the unavailability of suitable work and the burden of care work. Online platforms can create opportunities for women to access work while managing their care responsibilities. Governments and international development agencies often frame online labor markets and digital platforms as providing microentrepreneurial opportunities that can further women’s economic empowerment. There is however little empirical evidence on the women’s engagement on online platforms in India.
This policy brief is based on one of the first mixed-method empirical studies of women on online work platforms in India. Through a survey of 300+ women, semistructured interviews, and focus group discussions, we evaluate the motivations, experiences and impacts of online work for women and their economic agency and wellbeing. Our study showed that while there are many individual stories of increased earnings and a greater sense of wellbeing, these opportunities are only available to already well educated women, many of left their earlier jobs because of care commitments.
This policy brief outlines four measures to improve women’s access and wellbeing on online platforms – the recognition of online work as a distinct category of work along with measures to recognise and redistribute care work; improved access and opportunity through demand and supply side measures; furthering rights and social protection of women on online platforms; and advancing an agenda for data rights and empowerment.
IDRC has launched FOWIGS—a research program that will help understand how these changes are affecting the lives of the most vulnerable and suggest pathways for an inclusive digital future. The challenges are large and the questions are complex. But we need to face them now more than ever. Stay connected. Learn how.