LocalCircles, an Indian community social media platform conducted a survey to understand the startup and MSME scenario on their workforce adjustments due to COVID, especially focusing on how employment of women has changed in their business and how does the hiring outlook look as far as hiring of women in the next 6 months. The survey received over 7,000 responses from startups, MSMEs and entrepreneurs spread across 104 top business districts of the country. They survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants are validated members who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.
In the first question, startups & MSMEs were asked about how have workforce adjustments taken place in their business during the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, 25% said their business has shut down and all workforce has been let go, while 15% said their workforce has reduced by 50% or more. 19% said their workforce has reduced by 25-50%, and another 19% said their workforce has reduced by up to 25%. 6% said their workforce has increased and 16% said they have same workforce as pre COVID-19 time.
78% MSMEs and startups in India have reduced workforce in the last 8 months since the COVID-19 pandemic broke out and only 22% startups & MSMEs have the same or increased workforce as compared to the pre-COVID levels. The Government also took steps to help these small businesses through the Atmanirbhar Bharat scheme, but its advantages per feedback from businesses in July this year has been quite limited.
In 2017, the Indian Government passed the Maternity (Amendment) Bill that increased the right to paid maternity leave for working women from 3 months to 6 months – the third highest in the world. Although this was great news for nursing mothers, a ripple effect of this decision was noticed in many small businesses who reduced hiring of women in their organizations, purely due to financial reasons and the cost of funding maternity leave benefits. Though the Government came back and moved a proposal allowing companies to file reimbursement of 7 of the 26 weeks of maternity pay, there were few takers amongst small businesses. With COVID-19, women employment situation has changed a bit. With many children now doing online classes from home, working women have been juggling between running the household to attending to children and delivering on their work commitments.
Startups & MSMEs were asked about how employment of women has been in their business 8 months into the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, 7% said women in their workforce have been reduced by 50-100%, 12% said women in their workforce have reduced by 25-50%, and 12% said women in our workforce have been reduced by up to 25%. 46% said they still have same number of women in the workforce as pre COVID-19. Not a single business reported increase in the number of women employees during the course of the 8 months of COVID-19 pandemic.
In the final question, startups & MSMEs were asked looking at the next 6 months, how do they see employment of women in their business. In response, 50% said they don’t plan to hire any women employees while 30% said they plan to hire 1-5 women employees. 13% said they plan to hire 6-10 women employees and 7% were unsure about it.
So while the last 8 months of the pandemic have been tough from the perspective of new employment of women with small businesses, the 6 month outlook does look a bit better. With growth coming back in many sectors, and given that Work from Home has become a new normal for many of the technology driven businesses and for white collar jobs, even in traditional businesses, it is likely to help more women find job opportunities in the coming months.