Context: The 30 years of employment data in India collected by the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) and the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) is analyzed to discuss a prevalent misconception about the Indian economy: the low participation rate of women in the labor force (FLFPR), especially compared to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Status of Women Employment in India
- Agriculture census 2015-16: share of female operational holders has increased from 12.79 per cent in 2010-11 to 13.87 per cent in 2015-16 and 40.67% Agri labourers are women.
- Periodic Labour Force Survey (2019-20): Women workers 28.8% of total workforce in India.
- Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) 2022: Female Labour Force Participation dips to 9.2% from 15%.
- International Labour Organization (ILO): 95% of working women are in informal sector.
Reasons for less FLFPR
- Societal norms and cultural expectations: In India, traditional gender roles dictate that women should focus on household duties and raising children, while men are the primary breadwinners.
- Lack of access to education: Girls are often denied access to education, or they drop out of school early due to poverty or familial responsibilities. This lack of education and skill development limits their employment opportunities and earning potential.
- Limited job opportunities: Women often face discrimination in the job market, and there are fewer job opportunities available to them compared to men. For example, technology and finance sector.
- Safety concerns: Women in India often face safety concerns and harassment in the workplace and while commuting to and from work. It discourage them from seeking employment outside of the home.
- Unpaid care work: Women in India often have to bear the burden of unpaid care work, such as taking care of children, elderly family members, and household chores. It is often undervalued and not recognized as work, which limits women’s ability to participate in paid employment.
- Lack of supportive policies: India lacks supportive policies, such as parental leave, flexible work arrangements, and affordable childcare, which can enable women to balance work and family responsibilities.
Initiatives taken to improve FLFPR in India
- Mahila Shakti Kendra Scheme: Empowers rural women through community participation.
- Rashtriya Mahila Kosh: Provides micro-credit at concessional terms to poor women for various livelihood and income generating activities.
- Prime Minister’s Employment Generation Programme (PMEGP): Under the scheme, women entrepreneurs are provided 25 per cent and 35 per cent subsidies for the project set up in urban and rural areas respectively.
- Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana- National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM): seeks to reach out to 8-9 crore rural poor households and organize one woman member from each household into affinity-based women SHGs and federations at village and at higher levels.
- Female Entrepreneurship: To promote female entrepreneurship, the Government has initiated schemes like MUDRA, Stand Up India and Mahila e-Haat.
Increasing women’s participation in the labor force market in India is a crucial step towards achieving gender equality and promoting economic growth. Efforts to increase women’s participation in the labor force should focus on providing access to education and training, affordable childcare services, flexible working hours, and addressing gender-based discrimination and promoting equal opportunities for women in all sectors of the economy.