Covid locks women out of the job market in India

A cluster of job seekers gather near a busy street in northern India.

Among them - more than a dozen women - one of them cradling a sleeping child.

They've been looking for work ever since a second, vicious wave of coronavirus cases hit.

Now they are stuck in Gurugram, a city of more than a million people, but little opportunity.

"We have small children and we're just sitting here with them. We don't even have money to get back to our villages...There are so many problems."

The global pandemic has wiped out employment for 15 million people in India.

And women have been the hardest hit, according to trade and industry leaders.

The vast majority of women here are in low-skill work: factory or farm or domestic jobs, the first to go when times get tough.

Savitri Devi lost her job at a garment factory last year and has been looking for work ever since, with no luck.

"There are a lot of challenges...eating, drinking, everything is a challenge. There is practically nothing. I manage to cook one meal but can't provide for the second."

Besides the loss in household income, the unemployment crisis also threatens to undo a decade of social gains made by women in India.

That's according to Amarjeet Kaur, a trade union leader.

"We find lots of child labour once again entering into the market, girls losing their education, child marriages happening and women suffering domestic violence at home and they are burdened with taking care of children, old, sick people in the family."

Kaur wants the government to help women get back to the workforce by offering incentives.

She said it may take several years to return to the way things used to be, if it happens at all.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting