Female construction workers earn 30-40% less than male workers, says report by Primus Partners & World Trade Center

Female construction workers earn 30-40% less than male workers, says report by Primus Partners & World Trade Center
Informal women workers in the Indian construction and real estate sector earn 30-40% less than male workers, according to a report that highlights gender inequality in this sector. Consulting firm Primus Partners and World Trade Center on Monday released a report 'Pink Collar Skilling: Unleashing the Women's Power in the Real Estate Sector' stating that out of the total people employed in this industry only 12 per cent are women.

"In the domestic construction and real estate sector, which employs 57 million workers, 50 million of the people employed are men, and only 7 million are women," the report said.

Further, it added that the informal women workers engaged in construction in India earn 30-40% less than their male counterparts.

This highlights the "gender inequality prevalent in the construction and real estate sector in India," it observed.

With a 34.5% pay gap, the hourly wage of women in the construction industry is Rs 26.15, the report pointed out. Men earn Rs 39.95 per hour.


India has only 2 per cent of women executives in construction companies against the UK's 14 per cent and the US's 7 per cent.

"In the real estate sector, there are a negligible number of women in managerial roles. The glass ceiling acts as a barrier for the few women employed in the space," the consultant said.

It classified the workforce in the construction industry into four levels -- leadership, technical, semi-skilled labour and unskilled labour.

"Across industries, the representation of women on the corporate board stands at only around 17.3%, but when it comes to the construction sector, the figure is much lower.

"Only 1-2% of women reach top-level management positions in this industry," the report said.

The number of women engaged in other technical and managerial roles (architects, civil engineers, supervisors) stood at just 1.4 per cent. Out of this, less than 2%t reach leadership positions.

In India, 47.6 per cent of licensed architects are women, with a gender pay gap of 15 per cent in the field.

Even in mid-level and semi-skilled roles, including site supervisors, contractors, surveyors, carpenters, plumbers, painters and masons, women's participation is very low.

"Women are mainly employed in the lowest paying and most hazardous tasks (like lifting heavy loads), including brick kiln workers, quarry workers, slab pouring, stone shaping, load carriers, and assistants. These jobs are labour intensive, cause health hazards and are not well paying," the consultant said.

The construction sector employs the largest number of casual labourers, with close to 84 per cent of the workers in the sector employed as casual labourers.

More than 80% of jobs in the sector are constituted by a minimally skilled labour force, and the rest comprising of technical roles such as engineers and clerical roles.

"But the situation of female workers in this category is worse than their male counterparts. They are paid less (~30% less, in some cases, it is less than 40-50%) and are often allowed to work only half the month," the report said.

Primus Partners and the WTC report have suggested a ten-step roadmap offering strategic recommendations for addressing the gender gap in the Indian real estate industry.

These are the national campaign for gender inclusion and overcoming bias; the all-women crew lighthouse housing project; gender inclusion in government contracts; monitoring of gender quality through RERA; investment funds for women-led companies in real estate; skilling across levels; gender-sensitive training; paying attention to safety & working conditions at project construction sites and in operation areas; priority queue for project approvals for organisations with better gender ratio; and career innovation fund.

Aarti Harbhajanka, Co-Founder and Managing Director, of Primus Partners, said, "Owing to pre-existing notions, gender-based differential growth trajectories, bias, and exclusivity, the real estate sector remains a deterrent rather than a preferred sector for Indian women."

In future, she said, the industry will see more women taking on highly demanding roles in sales and marketing, finance, administration, and human resource management. This can be seen in the fundamental changes made to the RERA-established regulatory mechanisms, which have resulted in greater transparency in the real estate and construction sector.

"As we look to the future, women are increasingly disproving these stereotypes and shattering the glass ceiling," Harbhajanka said.

Khair Ull Nissa Sheikh, Board Member, WTCA, said, "Real Estate & Construction is India's second largest industry after agriculture, and it contributes significantly to the country's overall GDP. Yet, it remains the least skilled industry for workers, especially women. This disparity is due to the gender bias that exists in Indian society regarding women working on-site."

Prominent women's participation in the construction industry is critical not only for achieving higher growth but also for the country's overall social development, she added.

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