General Studies Essay Paper : Female Labour-Force Participation in India

female labour force participation


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Syllabus: General Studies Essay Paper: Economy

Is low, stagnating female labour-force participation in India an outcome of economic reforms?

Work force participation is people who are employed or willing to work(16-64). People who are skilled but not ready to work are excluded. According to (International Labour Organisation) ILO’s  report on women work participation, Middle east and Africa and south east countries have reasonable figures. In Bangladesh due to growth in garment industry and cheap credit its numbers are enviable. In India, there is a decline in female labour force participation. In rural areas condition is more worst than in urban areas where reasonable progress can be seen. 

Women work participation depends on many factorseducational attainments, employment opportunities, falling fertility rates and social norms. With more education they are more eligible to seek employment. But parents may not show interest if employment opportunities are rare to educate a girl. Economic survey highlights the case, where opportunities in Bengaluru BPO sector raised the educational levels in Anantapur dist. Falling fertility means more time to work so more participation and above all social norms—in-laws , patriarchy, acceptance of society plays a crucial role in deciding women participation rate.

Scholars have given different views on recent decline particularly after LPG reforms. For some it is anomaly, for others it is due to economic reforms. Surely any decision cant completely becomes a reason. Both causes must be studied in detail to understand nuances of the problem.

  • Lot of women work in informal sector and their contributions often are ignored . when more women get access to education it is obvious their participation at work force decreases. Before women used to do menial jobs when their education and asset levels were not so good, now they would not be willing to participate in work force. 
  • Early marriages forces them to migrate or in-laws pressurize them not to work and concentrate more on household works. Indian economy is mostly informal and exploitation of women is more, so they might be afraid to participate.
  • Regular sexual offences against women (tehlka case, R K Pachuri case) also inhibits women participation.
  • Discrimination, wageparity, problems in balancing life and work also obstructs them. Choice of work is most important for more participation. Women are more comfortable with jobs which are near due to ineffective transport system and difficult to overcome the social stigma.
  • Maternal protection is one of major reasons for women leaving workforce, and some feel difficult to get back work after delivery. Recent amendments in maternity leave act is in right direction. But imbibing the paternity leave concept is much over due.

All these reasons could not explain the reasons full fledglingly because if opportunities are there women are always eager to grab them.

Impact of economic reforms of 1991

  • Indian economy has witnessed jobless growth after 1991. Growth happened due to increase in domestic consumption and export services. These sectors helped the skilled people, deprived opportunities of women.
  • Manufacturing sector is major employer for women, but it has not grown much. Small scale industries due to huge competition has not seen much progress.
  • Global competition has great impact on informal sector meaning more on women. 
  • To increase more opportunities, growth is more important. Our growth is not sufficient to create more opportunities for women, what ever opportunities are there are grabbed by men due to their advantages of good education, health, skill.
  • When men are earning decent income due to reforms, it has become dent on women employment. Some women might not be encouraged to work due to their rich spouse.
  • Many women are allowed to work just to meet economic compulsions, if such scenario is changed to treat women equals and they have right to work then their participation will increase.

Reduction in rural figures can be explained from economic reforms.

  • Due to more urbanization and shifting of employment from agriculture to service sector, and low investment in agriculture means lower opportunities in primary sector. Women participation is major in primary sector. Lack of opportunities in primary sector means lower participation. Migrated women of town may become housewife or may be her work is not recognized. Both factors have their share in low and stagnation of women work force.
  • Other problems are seeing the women participation from narrow perspective. i.e: Why both women and men should work outside? Division of labour is equally important, whats wrong if men work outside and women work inside? –  These narrow thinkings forget basic fact.

Women work participation is crucial for nations progress.

Because any country can grow only with good savings rate. Savings possible only with participation of both genders. Then only capital availability is good for further investment, research, and for social sector spending.

  • To achieve good women participation rate, gender budgeting must be given focus. So investment in girl education will improve female skilled labor forces.
  • To change the patriarchal society every men should think like a feminist, and then recognize every woman’s right to work. Here movies and media’s role is phenomenal. No need to make movies to empower women, but if women character in movie always works, it will have great impact on people.
  • Maternity leave must be compensated by government (like in South Korea) so that it will encourage women recruitment.
  • Good transport facilities, equal wages, strict implementation of law (sexual violence at work places), having good work culture also helps to improve numbers.
  • Women leave work to look after their children, so more quality child care centres at lower costs will help women to balance life and work. South Korea has achieved wonderful results by establishing state controlled crèche centres.
  • Many men still believe women are too sensitive and cannot handle higher management decisions. Such thinking will dent woman’s progress. That should be broken by showing role models—Indra Nooyi. South korea has encouraged women participation at higher positions automatically improved women numbers at lower levels. That country also provided incentives to companies which are gender friendly , which gave huge dividends, India must replicate this.
  • There is myth among men if more women come into workforce, men will loose their respect and jobs. This should be broken by recalling Gandhiji words “Respecting women means progress of society and civilization”.
  • Looking working women only as labour force is narrow interpretation. Women manage home very well, meaning naturally they have good management skills those things must be used to create self employement and women enterpreneurs so that their dependence on market labour supply factor reduces. SHGs, Stand up India etc are good steps in right direction for overall women economic empowerment.


National policy for women says that investment in women education and health is not for the sake of women but for the sake of the country. Many Indian homes are stable and prosperous because of women. Role of women in success stories from Self Help Groups, Kudamasree, Swatch Bharat etc is phenomenal. Many surveys clearly says women bring diversity, commitment and dedication to organization. Not utilizing their potential, in Obama words, any country cant become developed country if half of the country’s potential remains unexploited. 
Work participation ensures economic empowerment, which means women will have a voice in political affairs, in parliament, in media etc which will help address women issues. This cyclic process clearly tells us importance of women participation in labour force. For that we don’t have to do any thing. Women have the potential, only thing required is giving them space, encouragement and love. This trend has emerged already.


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