Tracing India's Female Labor Force Participation's Recent Growth
By: WE Staff
India's female labor force participation is a multifaceted issue that hampers the country's economic growth, gender equality, and workforce shaping, and also addresses challenges for societal evolution.
In India, female labor force participation has historically been low, reflecting complex socioeconomic and cultural factors. While the country has made strides in the past few years, with more women entering the labor force, obstacles are still present. Women's participation in formal employment is frequently limited by cultural norms, limited access to quality education, and family responsibilities. Government initiatives like "Beti Bachao, Beti Padhao" aim to address these issues, promoting economic growth and gender equality.
Women's labor force participation has changed significantly over time. Women are more engaged in various responsibilities and duties rather than just serving domestic work due to socioeconomic changes in society. Economic empowerment decreased the rate of poverty stimulating economic growth. It provides women with financial independence and also increases their ability to make decisions both inside and outside of their homes.
The Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) is a vital economic indicator that indicates the percentage of the working-age population, typically between the age of 15 to 64, who actively seeks employment opportunities or are employed. A high LFPR resembles a good economy with numerous job opportunities.
Studies on Female Labor Force Participation:
The Indian government has increased female labor force participation by 4.2 percentage points to 37.0% in 2023, according to the Periodic Labor Force Survey Report. This growth is a positive sign for women's employment and participation in the workforce. The government has implemented programs to empower women, including girls' education, skill development, entrepreneurship support, and workplace safety policies. These measures aim to improve women's employability, economic independence, and self-reliance while ensuring a comfortable working environment.
The government is promoting women's involvement in various aspects of life, enhancing their socio-economic and political development. Programs include promoting girls' education, and skill development, fostering entrepreneurship, and enacting workplace safety policies to create a supportive environment for women. These initiatives aim to enhance their employability, economic independence, and self-reliance.
India's low female labor force participation rate (LFPR) has stagnated, with 29.4% of women in 2021-22, compared to 29.8% in 2020-21, while men's LFPR improved from 80.1% to 80.7%.
According to the latest available Annual Periodic Labor Force Survey (PLFS) Reports, India's Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) for women aged 15 and above increased to 30.0%, 32.5%, and 32.8% in 2019-20, 2020-21, and 2021-22, respectively. The government has implemented protective provisions in labor laws to improve women's participation and employment quality. These include enhanced paid maternity leave, mandatory crèche facilities, and night shifts with safety measures. The government also provides training through Women's Industrial Training Institutes, National Vocational Training Institutes, and Regional Vocational Training Institutes. In addition to this, the 2020 OSH Code permits women to work in aboveground mines and belowground mines, including technical, supervisory, and managerial work, between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Some prominent leaders shared their views:
Nithin Kamath of Zerodha states that in India, females shared his insights on India's female labor force participation, emphasizing the opportunity for an economic boost by employing India's female population. He states that in India, female labor force participation has remained extremely low over the last decade. It has marginally improved whatsoever over time.
"There is a U-shaped relationship between female labor participation and per capita GDP." This is because, at lower income levels, a large portion of female employment (and the same is true for children) is motivated by distress or need. As income levels rise, so does distress employment, and female labor participation falls. "And then it rises as women return to the labor force, not out of necessity, but voluntarily," explains Nithin Kamath.
Dr Saundarya Rajesh, Founder and president of Avtar Group mentions, "Micro and small businesses have received a lot of attention in the latest budget, and skilling increases employability, particularly for women." Along with the massive push for MSMEs, another encouraging initiative is the emphasis on tier 2 and tier 3 to transform them into sustainable living hubs. This is a significant step that will increase women's labor-force participation by bringing opportunities closer to home." "We anticipate that over 3.9 lakh companies will invest in upskilling." A more skilled workforce will help the country's GDP, which is expected to grow at an 8.5% annual rate in 2022-23."
Neha Bahri, Founder, of Bconnect Communications, an integrated marketing communication firm states “Gender equality is the cornerstone of a just and progressive society. It fosters inclusivity, ensuring that all individuals, regardless of gender, have the same rights, opportunities, and treatment. It dismantles harmful stereotypes, enabling individuals to pursue their aspirations without constraints.”
She further adds, “Gender equality drives economic growth by tapping into the full potential of the workforce. It empowers women, breaking cycles of discrimination and violence. Men benefit too, as they can express emotions and interests freely. In essence, gender equality creates a world where everyone thrives, fostering a harmonious and fair global community built on respect and shared dignity.”
Dr. Neelam Gupta, Founder, President & CEO, of AROH Foundation puts the challenge at hand into perspective through some alarming statistics, “According to the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2020, women currently earn about 63% of what men earn globally. Only 29% of senior management positions globally were held by women, according to the Grant Thornton International Business Report. Globally, women's labor force participation rate is about 47%, compared to 74% for men (World Bank, 2020).
As per Global Entrepreneurship Monitor's Women's Entrepreneurship Report 2020/2021, the gender gap in entrepreneurship rates across 43 economies is 14.7%, with men being more likely to start and own businesses. The statistics may vary across countries, geographies, and industries. While progress has been made in some areas, there is still a lot of work to be done to achieve gender equality in the workplace worldwide.”