The number of working women in India has been steadily declining, here’s why

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The number of working women in India has been steadily declining, here’s why
BCCL
  • India has one of the lowest female participation rates in the workforce among the developing countries.
  • During the period between 2011-2019, 30% of women in rural areas were engaged in low-skilled occupations.
  • As per IWWAGE, these are some possible reasons for decreasing female labour force participation during the period between 1993-2019
India has one of the lowest female participation rates in the workforce among the developing countries. The country has seen a steady decline over the past two decades. Women in rural areas all over the country have shown a massive churn, a drop by 24% since 1993-1994, reveals Initiative for What Works to Advance Women and Girls in the Economy (IWWAGE). Women in India’s urban areas saw a marginal decline from 25% to 22.5% during this period.

IWWAGE is a grant-holder of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It is a research centre, which aims to facilitate the agenda of women’s economic empowerment.

The number of working women in India has been steadily declining, here’s why
IWWAGE

The report also says that during the period between 2011-2019, 30% of women in rural areas were engaged in low-skilled occupations whereas in urban areas, engagement of women in the service sector has shown a tremendous rise. Also, women employed in industrial work during this period witnessed a marginal decrease from 19.9% to 19%.
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During the period between 2011-2019 in the agricultural sector, the percentage of female labour saw a sharp dip from 62% to 54.7%. Overall 71% of women are engaged in low productive activities, which shows that women continue to take vulnerable and marginal jobs. More than half of it get engaged in self employment but mostly are underpaid helpers or contributing family workers, highlights the report.

The number of working women in India has been steadily declining, here’s why
IWWAGE

The graph shows that during the period between 2018-2019, women who belong to scheduled tribes or Adivasi communities in rural areas participated more in labour workforce than other social groups, followed by scheduled caste or Dalit women. In 2004, women in scheduled tribes registered the highest drop followed by women in scheduled caste and other backward class groups.

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As per IWWAGE, these are some possible reasons for decreasing female labour force participation during the period between 1993-2019 --

Participation of women in workforce is related to households with higher incomes

The multivariate analysis highlights this as one of the critical factors which negatively affects the participation of women in both rural and urban areas. As the income of the household increases, the involvement of women in the workforce decreases. Women tend to withdraw from the workforce once the socio-economic status of the household improves.

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The number of working women in India has been steadily declining, here’s why
IWWAGE

Women after getting married or with small kids tend to participate less in the workforce

The IWWAGE report further reveals that getting married reduces the likelihood of women’s participation in the workforce by 17%, especially for those who have small kids below the age of five years in both rural and urban areas. A trend from 1993 also suggests that women in both urban and rural areas have been contributing more in household duties which often goes undervalued, overlooked and underreported.


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U-shaped relationship between female labour force participation rate and education

Women’s education is one of the major determinants in the labour force participation rate. The analysis shows that women with no or primary education work more than those with secondary or higher education. Women with high degrees are 12% more likely to engage in the labour force in urban areas.Vocational training in both rural and urban areas have a higher possibility of labour market participation. Job training in urban areas, too, has a higher impact on women’s labour market participation .


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