Diversity Issues in India

Diversity issues in Indian companies are somewhat peculiar owing to differences in social ethos, religious origins, cultural differences and regional origins. Certain sections of society enjoy preferential treatment, guaranteed by the Constitution right at the entry level itself such as:

Minority Groups / reserved Category Employees in India:

1) Scheduled castes and scheduled tribes ( SCs & STs)
2) Other backward classes (OBCs)
3) Ex- Defence and Para Military personnel
4) Physically disabled.
5) Displaced persons (DPs)
6) Gender issues
7) Contract labor
8) Child labor
9) Minority groups.

The policy of statutory job reservation for SCs and STs has been extended for another ten years, starting from the year 2000 through a government notification in all public sector undertakings. The list of OBCs had also been expanded by the Vajpayee led BJP government, to extend employment benefits to other neglected sections of the society. The sons of the soil policy ensure reservation of certain category of lower level jobs to local people in preference to outsiders. Shiv Sena for example, is a strong supporter of this policy ever since its inception as a political party in Maharashtra. Displaced persons too get preferential treatment for lower level positions advertised by the company which has acquired their land / house sites etc., (Essar Steel, Reliance etc) for building factories / production facilities. In addition, HR managers have to deal; with issues of child labor (a sensitive issue in industries such as carpet making, fire crackers industry etc) and contract labor, where the various portions of labor legislation are being conveniently ignored by the employees.

Women at Work:

Women employees today constitute a major share of the workforce. In India alone, over 400 million are employed in various streams due to a combination of factors like:

1) Women’s emancipation.
2) Growing economic needs
3) Greater equality of sexes
4) Increased literacy rate
5) Suitably for certain soft jobs ( public relations, telephone operations , reception counters etc).

The invisible Workforce

Women hold more than half the sky. Far from being just vigorously uttered slogan, government studies reveal that the female workforce in India does indeed make a significant contribution to the nation’s economy and family welfare. Yet at the same time this economic contribution is either abjectly unrecognized or where taken note of, is qualitatively unprotected. According to 1981 census, 89.5 per cent of women workers are engaged in the unorganized sector, of which a huge chunk – 82.3 percent actively participate in agricultural and allied operations. This massive segment of the female workforce contributes as much as 60-70 percent to the total agricultural activity in our villages.

The initial reluctance of employers to give jobs to women seems to be a thing of the past (due to increased financial burden in the form of maternity benefits, crèches, prohibition of women in night shifts and in hazardous jobs etc), they handle both hard and soft jobs now in areas such as accounting hospitality banking insurance airways police, teaching, beauty care and even driving. The principle of equal pay for equal work has more or less become the rule now in most industries (barring plantation, construction industry etc).

Six ways to cheer up female employees:

1) Provide alternative career paths.
2) Offer extended leave facilities so that they can meet their pressing commitments according to their convenience.
3) Allow female workers to create their own schedules and process work at home.
4) Create flexible work arrangements.
5) Permit job sharing especially in case of relatively independent tasks such as filing, faxing, word processing, photo copying etc.

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