Female Labour Force Participation


    In News

    • Recently, the Vice President of India expressed concern over low female participation in the formal labour force in India.

    Key Points about Female Labour Force Participation

    • It is a driver of growth and therefore, participation rates indicate the potential for a country to grow more rapidly. 
    • The relationship between women’s engagement in the labour market and broader development outcomes is complex
    • Status in Developing Countries: 
      • The participation of women in the labour force varies considerably across developing countries and emerging economies, far more than in the case of men. 
      • In the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, less than one-third of women of working age participate, while the proportion reaches around two-thirds in East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. 
      • This variation is driven by a wide variety of economic and social factors including economic growth, increasing educational attainment, falling fertility rates and social norms. 
      • Besides the labour market gender gaps are more pronounced in developing countries, and the disparity is highest in South Asian countries. 

    Image Courtesy: Quora 

    • According to the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) Report, there is surge in Female Labour Force Participation Rate:
      • It can be interpreted as a positive sign but there is a catch.
      • Much of this increase is in the most sub-optimal category of unpaid family workers. 

    Image Courtesy: LM 

    Impact of COVID 19 on Women in India

    • The post-pandemic situation continues to be problematic: 
      • Disproportionate job losses faced by women, 
      • The spike in dropout rates of girls further exacerbated by gender gaps in access to digital tools, 
      • The rise in cases of domestic abuse during the lockdown, 
      • The disruption to reproductive and Maternal health services faced due to closure of Anganwadi centres.
    • Some worrying trends are: 
      • India’s falling female labour force participation rate (LFPR), and 
      • India ranks 135 among a total of 146 countries in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2022, which slipped from 112th position in 2020. 

    Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR)

    • The LFPR essentially is the percentage of the working-age (15 years or older) population that is asking for a job.
    • It represents the demand for jobs in an economy. 
    • It includes those who are employed and those who are unemployed. 
    • The Unemployment Rate (UER) is the number of unemployed (category 2) as a proportion of the labour force.


    • Contribution to GDP: Increasing the participation of women in the formal labour force will significantly increase their contribution to the GDP as also for inclusive growth. 
    • Changing narratives: Women empowerment is important in a developing country like India, this is necessary to change established gender narratives and ensure upward mobility of women in various fields.

    Challenges in Female Labour Force Participation

    • Linkages: Educational institutions to form linkages with the industries and tailor the courses in accordance with their requirements.
    • Zero tolerance towards gender discrimination: There is a need to bring about a change in the mindset of the people. This transformation should begin at home where boys and girls are treated equally.
    • For effective implementation of National Education Policy-2020, it is necessary to ensure equitable education and transform the educational landscape in the country. NEP has set the goal to achieve 100 percent enrolment of girls in schools by 2035 and 50 per cent in higher education institutions.
    • Growing Working Age Population and Shrinking Jobs: While India’s working-age population has been increasing each year, the percentage of people with jobs has been coming down sharply.
    • Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB): Increasing the size of the gender budget, making women-focussed expenditure more targeted and enhancing GRB efforts at the State level.

    Image Courtesy: ET 

    Way Ahead

    • No nation can progress without the educational empowerment of women, so educational institutions should introduce skill-based courses for increasing the employability of women.
    • There is a need to change established gender narratives and ensure the upward mobility of women in various fields.
    • The focus must be on character building and integrity through value-based education. 
    • Care and share are at the core of Indian philosophy, and it is extremely important to inculcate the values of empathy and sensitivity among students.

    Source: PIB