Indian women still pay the “motherhood wage penalty” when they return to work

Taking a break?
Taking a break?
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Most Indian women who are forced to take a career break, invest in returning to the workforce, but are not rewarded.

Around 70% of Indian women on a sabbatical upskill themselves to make up for the evolution of technology while they are away, according to a study by workplace diversity expert Avtar Group. However, 69% of them anticipate a pay cut on re-entry.

“The prevalence of ‘motherhood wage penalty,’ wherein mothers returning to work suffer severe pay and hiring disadvantages, is a reality. This gap needs to be bridged,” said Saundarya Rajesh, founder and president, Avtar Group.

The study, published on Dec. 5, was conducted among 783 Indian women with an average work experience of 9.5 years who returned to the job market after a gap of around 4.4 years.

The hiatus

Caregiving is the most common reason for women going on a career break in India, the study said.

Many of these women want to return to full-time jobs. As many as 7 million women in India today are looking to start over after a break, according to the study.

Financial security (38%) and not letting their education go waste (22%) are the key motivating factors for women to return to the job market. Productive use of time and job satisfaction are other factors.

However, most second-time career aspirants find that their professional network is weakened by the break, which impacts their prospects in the job market.

To bridge the networking gap, more Indian women are using internet platforms such as LinkedIn and leveraging their alumni groups.

More women are also placing their faith in job portals and recruiters to identify suitable opportunities.