Constraints on Firms for Providing Safer Workplaces for Female Workers

Female labour force participation in developing countries like India is low and has been falling, but safer workplaces may help encourage more women to apply for work. If lack of safety at work is a constraint on women’s labour force participation then attracting more women, and more skilled women, to work can contribute to firms’ productivity and promote inclusive growth. Beaman, Sharma and Sharma aim to study what constraints firms face in developing countries in promoting safety for sexual harassment for existing and potential female workers. This pilot project will focus on the context of India where government passed the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act in 2013 for promoting safer workplace environment for women through mandated policies. However, anecdotally compliance is low and official data on this has not been collected. In this project, Beaman and coauthors will provide evidence on a profit maximizing firms’ perceived constraints to providing a safer working environment for its female employees in an environment where implementation of the law may be weak.

This project will involve two main components of data collection. First, university students will be surveyed to elicit their preferences over safe workplaces which implement policies consistent with the law. The survey will use direct questions and vignettes to elicit their preferences and outline tradeoffs between wages and working conditions, for both men and women, and which elements of safety matter the most. Second, a firm level survey will be conducted with firms in urban areas, which are likely to hire university-educated workers. Beaman and coauthors will first use a database of the partnering NGO Safecity to identify firms to take part in the survey, and will then elicit firms’ beliefs about practices at other firms, about the types of workers such policies will attract, their perceived returns to such policies and aim to understand the correlation of the beliefs with firms’ willingness to pay for measures mandated in the Act.

The data generated in this project will provide important descriptive analysis that can inform policymakers about firms’ awareness and compliance of the SHWA, and how awareness and compliance vary across different types of firms (size, industry, leadership structure). Currently, there is only anecdotal evidence suggesting very low compliance. This pilot will also hopefully lead to a second phase of research focusing on an intervention RCT, based on what is learned about firms’ constraints to adoption of safe workplace policies.



Lori Beaman

Northwestern University

Anisha Sharma

Ashoka University

Karmini Sharma

University of Warwick