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Suhani Jalota

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Graduate Student Fellowship | 2022 - 2023 Academic Year

What Works for Her? How Work-from-Home Digital Jobs Affect Female Labor Force Participation (With Evidence from the Urban Poor)

Gender and Equity
work, Entrepreneurship, and finance

Women labor force participation in urban India remains particularly low at 20% with social norms constraining women’s paid work. We design job opportunities for women that comply with existing social norms through digital smartphone-based tasks that can be flexible, part-time and from or near home. Through a six-armed randomized experiment in Mumbai with 3,300 married women, we provide some of the first experimental evidence to show how providing paid work-from-home jobs can increase female labor force participation. Even when the job is offered close to home within the same community, in women-only centers where children are permitted and there is minimal safety or travel cost involved, work-from-home is twice as preferred as working from local centers. Further, we find that the women who work-from-home have lower productivity, possibly due to multitasking. We test for the mechanisms behind the strong preference to work from home, including observability of the woman’s work status, convenience, multi-tasking, and permissions to leave the house for work. The experiment also demonstrates that wage levels only have small effects on job take-up rates for women, especially when the job is at home, even when the wages are increased five-fold, but can affect their intensive margin decisions. Finally, we observe how providing social norm-compliant employment to women may affect their take-up of any type of job in the future, and the effects of this employment on women’s overall agency, mental health, dignity, and social norms.

Suhani Jalota, School of Medicine - Health Policy

Suhani Jalota

Suhani Jalota is a PhD candidate in Health Policy and Economics and MBA student at Stanford University, as a Knight Hennessy Scholar. She is from Mumbai, India. Her research is focused on understanding the cost of social dignity for the poor and for women. Her dissertation topic studies the extent of lost wages in the household due to social norms around women’s work. She uses digital jobs from home to increase female labor force participation in India. She further studies the effects of such new forms of employment on women’s wellbeing, mental health, agency, and dignity outcomes. She and her team have built a smartphone-based platform, Rani Jobs, that provides women with micro-tasks.

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