Women in the Indian work force

The working population in India is typically classified as 15-59 years age group. As a general philosophy every able bodied person is liable for their own upkeep and maintenance. Which implies every able bodied man and woman should ideally work and contribute to the society. This is to ensure there are no free riders and the economy prospers.

A very important element in the growth for the economy is the participation of women in the workforce. The Labour Force Participation Rate[i] for men and women in India, taking into account the principal activity status (ps) and subsidiary economic activity (ss) workers, is given below.

From the above table we see that Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR) for women has reduced over the years as India is progressing towards development. Implying that more women choose to stay at home and not have an economic contribution.

One of the reasons extended for women not working is that they take care of the household which should be considered as an economic activity. As per the NSO survey[ii], women spend about 2.1 hours cooking food and about 1.1 hours cleaning the house and utensils daily. In essence, women put in a total of 3.3 hours a day working within the house as compared to around 11 hours put in by their counterparts (ie. men). Hence, this justification does not hold water.

Another reason cited is that women leave the work force because they need to take care of the children. The justification seems logical but is without merit as –

  • Did women not have to take care of children in 2004? [see graph above] Were women not taking care of children earlier and therefore working and have recently realized over the past decade that they need to take care of children?
  • The proportion of children to the total population of India has reduced in the past decade, implying that lesser women-hours are to be spent on taking care of children now as opposed to a decade ago. Therefore logically their participation in the labour force should have increased as opposed to decreasing.

As per the census of India[iii], the proportion of children in the age group 0-10 years has reduced from 26.5% in 2001 to 22.3% in 2011. This means that more women should now have free time as they do not have to take care of the children.

Another justification given for women going out of the work force is that they join the part time labour force. If we analyse the labour force taking into account the current weekly activity status[iv] (cws) of workers, even then number of women participants has reduced by 20%.

What could be the reason for this disturbing trend? Do feel free to share your thoughts on the same.

[i] NSSO employment surveys 60, 62, 64, 66 and 68. Usual Principal Activity Status (ps) and Usual Subsidiary Economic Activity Status (ss) approach data. (Participation rate per 1,000)

[ii] National Statistical Organization: Men and Women in India, 2012 – 14th Issue, Para 33

[iii] Census of India: 2011 and 2001

[iv] The current weekly activity status (cws) of a person is the activity status obtaining for a person during a reference period of 7 days preceding the date of survey. According to the CWS approach, a person is considered as a worker if he/she has performed any economic activity for at least 1 hour on any day of the reference week, and is obtained from the daily activities or in-activities performed in each day of the last seven days prior to the date of survey. For details please refer this link.

Editor’s note: feature image by Keybee07

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