Women work participation rates

  • IASbaba
  • March 18, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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Topic: General Studies 3:

  • Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  • Indian Economy and issues relating to planning, mobilization, of resources, growth, development and employment.

Women work participation rates

Context: Women’s work participation rates have fallen sharply — from 29 per cent in 2004-5 to 22 per cent in 2011-12 and to 17 per cent in 2017-18

Concerned with ostensibly declining women’s work participation, identifying sectors from which women are excluded and more importantly, in which women are included have been missed out in our analysis. It is thus time to count women’s work rather than women workers.

Anatomy of the decline

  • Decline in women’s work participation rates shows that it is driven by rural women.
  • In the prime working age group (25-59), urban women’s worker to population ratios (WPR) fell from 28% to 25% between 2004-5 and 2011-12, stagnating at 24% in 2017-18. 
  • However, rural women’s WPR declined sharply from 58% to 48% and to 32% over the same period. 
  • Among rural women, the largest decline seems to have taken place in women categorised as unpaid family helpers — from 28% in 2004-5 to 12% in 2017-18. This alone accounts for more than half of the decline in women’s WPR. 
  • The remaining is largely due to a drop of about 9% in casual labour, while their regular salaried work increased by a mere 1 percentage point
  • In contrast, women counted as focusing solely on domestic duties increased from 21% to 45%

Some of the reasons for the decline are:

  • Increasing incomes: As husband’s and other family income increases, women’s incentive to work declines.
    • Goldin’s U- Shaped Hypothesis: where female labour force function is related it to the level of education and the emergence of the white collar sector jobs supports the argument of rising incomes impacting female labour force participation
  • Economic Slowdown, particularly in last three years, has pushed women out of the labour force as there is overall increase in unemployment.
  • Lack of Employment Opportunities for educated rural women: Rural men with a secondary level of education have options like working as a postman, driver or mechanic — few such opportunities are open to women. 
    • Women with secondary education have only half the work participation rate compared to their uneducated sisters. 
  • Weakness in Survey System which fails to take into account the exact nature of work being done by females (especially in rural areas). 
    • With shortage of funds and trained personnel, the National Sample Surveys increasingly relies on contract investigators hired for short periods, who lack these skills.

Way Forward:

  • More Robust Survey System 
    • Need to ask detailed questionnaire while undertaking surveys especially about the primary and secondary activity status of each household member
    • Similar questions also need to be asked about livestock ownership and about people caring for the livestock, ownership of petty business and individuals working in these enterprises
  • Develop data collection processes from the lived experiences of women and count women’s work rather than women workers 
  • Implementation of the recommendations of ‘Shramshakti: Report of National Commission on Self Employed Women and Women in the Informal Sector’ 
  • Providing employment opportunities for women in rural areas by adopting decentralization in our developmental strategy

Connecting the dots

  • Educational level and Women work wages disparity
  • Global Gender Gap Index

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