Women Not In Job Market? It’s A Myth

Source: The post is based on the article “Women Not In Job Market? It’s A Myth” published in The Times of India on 31st March 2023.

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

Relevance: Abut female labour force participation rate

News: The Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) often in its various reports has shown low female labour force participation rate (FLFPR) in India. However, this might not be true.

Why is low female labour force participation rate (FLFPR) shown in India?

FLFPR is shown low despite the fact that 15% of pilots in India are women which is the highest in the world. And, as per the World Bank, 42.7% of women in India were STEM graduates in 2018.

The low FLFPR as per the PLFS is because India fails the “smell test” or the “duck test”. This implies that the actual FLFPR is higher from what is shown.

Further, NSSO data for 2004/05 showed FLFPR to be 35% but in 2011/12 this figure dropped to 26.1%

The reason behind the decline in FLFPR is because of the changed definition of the ILO from 2011.

The changed ILO definitions says that production towards home consumption (e.g., care-taking of cattle for milk consumed at home) would no longer be counted as “work for pay or profit”. This dropped millions of women from FLFPR.

Note: Duck test refers to identification of something by its habitual characteristics.

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

How can there be an increase in the FLFPR?

FLPR can be increased by the enrolment of women in India at all levels of education.

The new generation (between 25 and 30 years) will cause the FLFPR to increase because higher education leads to greater work participation.

Further, Indian women have a fertility rate less than the replacement rate of 2.1 and dropping. And attitudes around the world (and in India) towards childcare are changing.

Therefore, having babies is no longer a constraint towards FLFPR.

What is the way ahead?

First, there has been an increase in female enrolment in higher education, i.e., from two-fifths of male enrolment in 1983 to now 83%. The ratio is 95% in the dominant enrolment age group of 15-22 years.

Second, labour force participation rates for women are now equal to, or higher, than the level observed in 2011 (if no change in ILO definition is considered).

Third, adjusted weekly LFPR status for all women is now at 38.7%, which is two percentage points above 2011.

Therefore, the issue of low FLFPR given by the PLFS in its various reports should not be considered as a matter of concern.

The growing enrollment with increasing FLFPR must be acknowledged by the policy makers and international organizations.


Source: Times of India

Note: Three different definitions of LFPR are – weekly status, long-term employment (usual status), and weekly LFPR adjusted for education (i.e., one is considered “in work force” if attending school).

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