FM Nirmala Sitharaman
FM Nirmala Sitharaman
Photo by PTI

As the count down for the Union Budget 2021 begins, the expectation of the common man from the country’s Finance minister Nirmala Sitaraman is also building up. Women are no different. They too have high hopes since the budget is being presented by a woman finance minister.

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the women workforce hard. From women migrant labourers to company employees to teachers, all have been impacted badly. Hence it comes as no surprise that the country’s women workforce has high expectations from the Finance Minister.

According to Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) data women accounted for 10.7 per cent of the workforce in 2019-20 but, they suffered 13.9 per cent of the job losses in April 2020, the first month of the lockdown shock. By November 2020, men recovered most of their lost jobs but women were less fortunate. 49 per cent of the job losses by November were of women.

Hence women are expecting more sops to encourage female labour force participation.

“We want provisions to bring women in workforce with adequate safety measures and infrastructural support in place,” Reema Shah, an IT professional, told FPJ.

With job losses and salary cuts during the pandemic, many women are now looking at starting their own small business to run the house. Many are developing their hobby in to small businesses to meet the expenses.

“We are expecting more schemes that provide competence and skills to enable women to become self-employed entrepreneur, not only in the urban but in rural areas as well,” said Bharthi Gupta, who runs a bakery shop for the living.

Surprisingly, the government scheme called STEP (Support to Training and Employment Program) for women, which intends to provide training in skills development to ensure employment opportunities to women, does not seem to be known to many. Moreover, according to the reports, the fund allocation for the scheme has also been down sized from Rs 40 crore to Rs 5 crore.

According to the women workforce FPJ spoke to, most of them are of the view that “there are not many women centric policies in country and thus this has hampered the growth of women in India.”

Further, more and more demand is rising to increase the income tax exemption limit u/s 80 C for women from Rs 1.5 lakh to 2.5 lakh. This will leave the working women with more cash in hand for savings.

Also, the extension of the maternity leave from three months to six months was a welcome move, working women are asking to increase the maternity leave period to at least nine months.

Apart form working women, homemakers are also expecting a cut in prices of essential household items like groceries and cooking gas. The demand to reduce duty on gold is also in the wish list as gold prices have increased to its peak and is out of reach of a middle-class individual.

The female workforce will be keeping a close watch on the Union Budget 2021, which will be presented on February 1, to see whether the government will bring some good news for the women in the new year.

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Free Press Journal