Low labour force participation (LlFP) of Indian women

Context: The issue of the low labour force participation (LFP) of Indian women.

What are the factors limiting women’s labour force participation?

  • Women’s inability to work outside the home is hampered mainly due to the predominant responsibility for domestic chores and unpaid care work.

Scenario of Indian women’s labour force participation

  • Historical evidence: Historically, women’s LFP has increased when the time cost of domestic/unpaid care work is reduced, or is shared more equally with men, or made more compatible with market work.
  • Unequal gender divisions: India has among the most unequal gender divisions.
    • Women spend between five to 10 times more time on housework compared to men.
  • Female LFPR: Despite falling fertility and rapidly rising female education levels, India’s female LFP has not only been persistently low, but has registered a decline over the last 15 years.
  • Multifarous reasons:
    • Women unwillingness to work despite opportunities
    • A lack of suitable jobs,
    • Fractured nature of work especially in rural areas, and
    • Inaccurate measurement of their work is still debatable.
  • LinkedIn report: According to a recent report from LinkedIn, Indian women participation in paid work increased because of “work from home” (WFH) that allowed them to combine their domestic and employment responsibilities.

Way forward

  • Meaningful work should be provided to women that will be equal to their rising educational qualifications.
  • Need to ensure conducive and enabling conditions (transportation, toilets, regularity) etc to facilitate women’s participation in work force.
  • Need to reduce the burden of domestic chores and care work, along with increase in paid work opportunities to raise women’s participation in the labour force

India to realise its true potential of gender dividend, it is essential for paying attention to job creation with a gender equity lens.


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