It’s now well known that there are less women than men in the workforce in India and the world. This is particularly striking as one climbs the ranks of the corporate ladder, because women tend to quit working for various reasons, around their mid-twenties to early thirties.
But why do women stop working? Marriage and motherhood are the usual reasons… but surprisingly, research shows that women are increasingly stepping out of the workforce to look after their parents or in laws.
Companies in India have shown great progress in welcoming women back to work from career breaks, with offerings like flexitime, remote working, paid maternity leave, and childcare support at the workplace. Many companies have designed robust returnee programmes especially for women restarting their careers after taking a break.
It is important to understand the motives behind this phenomenon, of women stepping away from the workforce. According to a research study, On-Ramps and Up-Ramps India, 36% of women in India off ramp or leave the workforce, which is quite similar to countries like the United States and Germany.
But here’s where it gets interesting – 80% of the women in India surveyed in this study, said they were leaving for elder care, compared to 30% in the US and only 18% in Germany.
The author of the report rightly calls this “a double whammy – in India women have learnt to outsource childcare but not elder care. Daughterly guilt is now bigger than motherly guilt.”
IA surprising number of women in India step away from the workforce to look after elderly relatives. It’s time that companies recognise this talent pool of mid to senior management professionals, and hire them back to senior positions when they’re ready to restart.
Read more here:ndia has not caught up to other countries, on how it looks after its aging population, as a society. Often there is a stigma attached to placing parents in “old age homes” in India, and an overall sense of abandonment. High quality infrastructure for eldercare, like senior citizen community centres in the west, is rare in India and unaffordable for most where it does exist.
While motherhood is an uncontested (and the more commonly known) reason for quitting work, and a social norm all over the world where mothers are taken for granted as the primary caregivers, eldercare is not as readily accepted. Companies should plan for this eventuality, because looking after elderly parents is just as important as looking after young children. And it should not be a reason for companies to lose good talent, nor should it be a reason for women to end their careers.
Rehiring these women – often middle management or senior leaders when they left – is key. Companies in India must recognise eldercare as a valid reason for ramping off, and recognise the value of this talent pool as well.
Hiring strategies must include these women, because they’re a viable talent pool with a lot of life left in them! Many of these women have a decade or more of work experience, as taking time out for eldercare tends to happen when a woman is in her thirties or forties. So when these women are ready to return to work, companies should welcome them back into senior leadership roles, that are often difficult to fill.