35% Reservation for Women in Bihar

The Bihar government has announced to reserve 35% of all state level government jobs to women, the move which is expected to increase the participation of women in workforce. While the decision is welcomed, there is a question on whether the reservations in government jobs are an effective way of gender empowerment?

According to the available data, in 1984-85, around 7.5% of public sector jobs in Bihar are occupied by the women. By 2010-11, the figure reached to 5.2%. But the real issue is the very low participation of women in total Bihar’s work force. Around 86% of the women in Bihar are economically inactive. Around 71% of working women are engaged in agriculture and allied activities. In organised sector, as much as 91% working females are already working in government sector.  The reason for low female workforce participation is poor education levels. Bihar’s female literacy is 51.50% in 2011. Less than 2% of the females in the state are graduates and above. Among the educated women, only few women are taking up full-time work.  The societal bias towards women is further discouraging their participation.

The reservation policy is a step forward but it needs to be supplemented with policies on improving women education levels. The state government’s scheme of providing bicycle to girl students in higher school helped them in a big way. The preference to male candidates at several jobs also needs to be addressed first.

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