PLFS findings on FLFPR: More women in the labour force must not lead us to complacency

Source: The post is based on the article “More women in the labour force must not lead us to complacency” published in the Live mint on 16th August 2022.

Syllabus: GS 3 – Economic development: Indian Economy and issues relating to growth, development and employment.

Relevance: About the PLFS findings on FLFPR.

News: As per the Periodic Labour Force Survey(PLFS) released by the National Statistical Office (NSO) covering June 2020 to July 2021, the female labour force participation rate (FLFPR) in India has witnessed an increase.

About the PLFS findings on FLFPR

Data on FLFPR: The figure in the period stands at 25.1%, far better than the 17% in 2017-18.

The increase in FLFPR was mostly driven by a rise in rural FLFPR that went up from 18% in 2017-18 to about 28% in 2020-21. The increases were mostly in agriculture, where the share of rural women workers increased to 75% in this period.

Data on the share of unpaid family workers: The share of women working as unpaid family workers increased from 39% in 2017-18 to 43% in 2020-21; 87% of unpaid women family workers in rural India are in agriculture.

Data on the share of own-account workers: own account workers, i.e., individuals running enterprises without any hired help, increased by 3% over the period, almost 40% of whom were producing largely for their own consumption rather than for the market.

Data on urban women workers: Urban areas also witnessed a marginal increase in the FLFPR, from 16% in 2017-18 to almost 19% in 2020-21. Around 38% of these women were working as own-account workers and unpaid family workers.

Almost 40% of self-employed workers in the age cohort of 26-35 years end up producing for self-consumption rather than for the market. There is also a falling share of working women in the same age cohort, from 31%in 2017-18 to 26% currently. The fall is evident across all categories of workers: self-employed, regular/salaried and casual workers.

The marginal increase in the urban FLFPR is mainly driven by a 4% rise in the share of older women workers in the age cohort 36-59 years.

Data on women neither working nor looking for work: Almost 82% in the 26-35 years age cohort, cited childcare and household chores as their primary reasons for not being part of the labour force.

Women aged 35-plus cited health and age-related issues, social norms and non-availability of jobs, in addition to household commitments and childcare as reasons for not seeking work.

Read more: Periodic Labour Force Survey(PLFS) – Annual Report
What are the impacts of PLFS findings on FLFPR?

1) The share of women workers engaged in agricultural activities had been in decline since the 1990s. The reversal in trend indicates over-crowding and under-employment in the sector. 2) The FLFPR numbers continue to remain dismal and way below the global FLFPR of approximately 48%, 3) The increase in rural women’s LFPR does not reflect increased demand and/or better job opportunities beyond agriculture, 4) The employment of older women workers in urban areas highlights the Informal job networks, which usually lead to employment in jobs with low remuneration and below par working condition.

Read more: Periodic Labour Force Survey and Unemployment in India- Explained, pointwise
What should be done to improve India’s FLFPR?

There is a need to decrease the disproportionate burden that women bear for domestic care and household work that keeps them away from the country’s labour market. Hence, the government has to not only generate jobs and opportunities for women but also has to create an ecosystem of enablers that substantially reduces the care and household commitments of women.

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