Recently the Centre did away with the onerous Other Service Provider (OSP) regulations and issued new guidelines for the IT/ITeS industry. It was celebrated as a landmark move that would change the way IT business process outsourcing firms delivered their services giving work from home a boost.
The new regulation, executives said, would truly make adopting WFH and work from anywhere possible for all the IT/ITeS firms.
Indeed. OSPs are companies using telecom resources for its operations like tele-banking, tele-medicine, tele-trading, e-commerce, and call-centre operations. So these operators needed to register to ensure that these firms are not constrained by resources back in 1990s.
However for business process outsourcing firms these regulations had become onerous overtime than a facilitator it was meant to be. It meant that even with the client permission to operate out of homes instead of offices, OSPs would make it tough for them enable the same.
So the change, which included doing away with registration, bank guarantees, reporting obligations and penal provisions were done away with, was in a bid to make them possible.
But would that really help increase the women participation in the industry?
Yes and no.
On the paper it should. IT industry is one of the largest employers of women. The majority of the firms have an average of over 35 percent women employees. The sector employs about 50 lakh people.
However many of them quit the workforce after marriage as they move to a different city or post childbirth.
If work from home/work from anywhere becomes a norm these would no longer be an impediment as they can continue to work.
Sadly though in a society where women continue to be primary care givers and shoulder large portion of household responsibilities, the ground reality is far from ideal. The new model of working instead of becoming an enabler, could make it tough on them.
Take for instance, the stories of these three women.
Sadhana*, who works in a top IT firm is a mother to a one-year-old boy. She recently joined work after her extended maternity leave. She starts her work at 10 am and goes on till late night, sometimes as long as midnight.
Thankfully for her, her mother has stepped into take care of the baby.
Ramya*, who works in a leading IT firm in Chennai, moved to her mother’s house four hours away from the city along with her three-year-old son.
“I just could not handle my son, working through the day and household chores on top of that. My mother-in-law was not helping either. So had no option but to move,” she added.
In case of Dhanya*, she had to pick up one of her team member’s work being a lead. “A team member just joined us after maternity leave. But her family is not supportive and she is unable to finish her job. So I am doing in her stead since I know it is tough on her,” she said.
This has taken a toll on Dhanya and also the team member whose financial position does not allow her to take any more time off.
Clearly for these women, working from home has not made life any easier. It is in fact the opposite. It has also made them wonder what would happen to hundreds of women who are not lucky enough to have supportive families.
So, while there is a lot to rejoice, there is a long way to go before WFH or work from anywhere is equitable for women.
*Names changed to protect identity