Shehnaz, 28, a resident of Jamia Nagar in Delhi, quit her work at a beauty parlour to become a freelance beautician. Carrying a bulky backpack, she makes several house calls a day to provide salon services to her clients. As a single mother, it worked well for her: She was able to work on her own terms, even as she earned and saved more to support her son.
Then came demonetisation. “Initially, I had no choice and accepted payments in Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. Then I refused. When clients offered Rs 2,000 notes, I had no change. Now my payments have started to run into credit. I still work, but I am not getting paid immediately. It is causing a huge strain.”
Working women in the informal sector are badly affected. Women who are employed as domestic helps, for instance, are struggling to deal with the stress of having to stand in queues for hours, even as they are expected to report to work on time and fulfil their own domestic responsibilities.
Here is how demonetisation has affected women across the socioeconomic spectrum
STUDENTS: Those in cities have been able to switch to cashless payment options. But students in rural areas, especially those who have to travel for hours to attend classes, are finding it difficult as families are rationing cash to fulfil necessities.
FULL-TIME WORKERS: Women in the middle class and above do not feel the pinch because of alternative payment options. But informal workers, including those working in factories who get paid in cash, are affected as they cannot afford to take days off to stand in queues.
HOMEMAKERS: Worst affected are those who were secretly saving money. There have been reports of three women being beaten up by their husbands after they were forced to reveal the existence of their savings. Two of the women did not have bank accounts, while none in the family of the third had Aadhaar cards.
WOMEN WORKING FROM HOME: Most of them may have bank accounts, but because of the nature of their work, standing in queues for hours is not feasible.
DOMESTIC HELPS AND DAILY-WAGE WORKERS: Most of them are forced to rely heavily on credit from employers.
FARMERS/FARM LABOURERS: In the farm sector, women are worse off than men. Women farmers were already disadvantaged, with limited access to bank credit and schemes.
STREET VENDORS: Many of them have suspended their business because of difficulties in sourcing fresh stock and selling it.
WITH INPUTS FROM DEVELOPMENT ECONOMIST JAYATI GHOSH AND ECONOMIST AND SOCIAL SCIENTIST REETIKA KHERA.