Explaining Gender Discrimination in the Employment and Earnings of Engineering Graduates in India

Sunday, June 26, 2016: 9:00 AM-10:30 AM
830 Barrows (Barrows Hall)
Pradeep Kumar Choudhury, Institute for Studies in Industrial Development, New Delhi, India; Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India
In many developing countries, including India, the gender differences in employment and earnings are a common phenomenon and also seen as a serious policy issue. The employers positive discrimination towards male candidates, keeps many talented and highly qualified females out of the workforce. In India, the female labour force participation (FLFP) has remained lower than male participation and in the recent years it has fell down further. Further, in the economics of education literature, labour market discrimination against women is one of the most cited explanations of the gender gap in education. Some of the potential causes of the discrimination against women in the Indian labour market lie with the established argument that employers expect, on an average, better performance from men compared to women. They might feel that male employees tend to work for longer hours, while there may be interruption of the work by women because of uneven pressure of family responsibilities. Also, it is relatively easy to transfer male employees from one establishment of the company to the other as compared to female employees. Moreover, the issue of gender discrimination in the job market is more clearly visible in the engineering sector, where male candidates are strongly preferred than females. It is often argued that engineering and technical education is a masculine domain and hence, out of reach for women. Those who advocate this line of argument point to the persistence of certain social myths such as women are emotional while technology is strictly logical and hence both do not go together. Considering these popular observations, one can expect that, other things being equal, companies coming for on-campus recruitment prefer to hire male graduates compared to females.

In this context, this paper analyzes the factors that are responsible for gender discrimination in the employment and earnings of engineering graduates in India. It has used the data collected in 2009-10 through a survey among the fourth year students in Delhi who have gone through the placement exercise. The author finds, among other things, that a smaller percentage of women engineering graduates than men have got job offer and it varies widely across socio-economic settings. Also, it is found that the offered earnings of women are about 54 per cent less than that of men. The results provide strong and consistent evidence that institutional factors account for a sizable portion of the employment and earnings gap between male and female graduates, with type of institution (government/private) contributing a large part of it. There is no significant difference in the employment of students by their branch of study (traditional/IT-related) but it has a role to play in the offered earnings of the graduates. The study suggests in minimising the gender inequality in terms of employment and earnings of engineering graduates that may increase the access of females to this discipline.