• The latest periodic labour force survey of 2017-18 shows that only about 23% of working-age women are employed, down from 31% in 2011-12 and 43% in 2004-05.
  • It is working-age rural women who have gone from 49% in 2004-05 to 36% in 2011-12 and now 25% in 2017-18.
  • Despite more girls are staying longer in school, it’s not getting more of them into the workforce. Women are leaving paid jobs at all levels of education, age and income.
  • If Indian women had the same work participation rates as men, Oxfam estimated that the GDP of India would rise by 43%.
What is Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS)? ●       From 2017 onwards, a nationwide Labour Force Survey called Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) was launched by the National Sample Survey Organisation. The PLFS provides quarterly employment and unemployment data. ●       The Union Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation had constituted PLFS under the chairmanship of Amitabh Kundu. ●       The PLFS uses two approaches: (i) Usual Status (US) approach: Under this, the employment activity of a person is determined on the basis of a reference period of 365 days preceding the date of the survey. (ii) Current Weekly Status (CWS) approach: A person who is unable to get work for even an hour in the last seven days despite seeking employment is considered unemployed.
Major parameters of PLFS: ●       Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR): The labor force participation rate measures an economy's active labor force and is the sum of all employed workers divided by the working age population. It refers to the number of people who are either employed or are actively looking for work. ●       Worker Population Ratio (WPR): The work force participation rate refers to the number of persons actually employed as a proportion of the population. ●       Unemployment Rate (UR): UR= Number of Unemployed Persons / Labor Force. ●       Distribution of workers by industry, occupation, workers employed in the informal sector ●       Conditions of employment of the workers.
●       Labour force means people working or looking for jobs in the age group of 15-29 years. ●       The unemployed are those who are available for and seeking work but have not been able to find employment.
Trends shown by PLFS 2017-18
  • The unemployment rate (UR) in both rural and urban India is at its highest since 1972.
  • Labour force participation has been declined to 36.9% in 2017-18.
  • Among people aged 15-29 years, the share of the educated was 65.8% for urban males. It was 65.4% for urban females.
  • In urban areas, the unemployment rates for females are higher than those for males.
  • Unemployment among rural not-literate females has reduced.
  • The UR has also sharply increased among those who are more educated.
The big question: What is causing Indian women to withdraw from paid work? 
The answers: The first and biggest reason: Education.
  • School enrolment increased across caste and gender in the last 10-15 years, drawing in girl child labourers, and keeping them in school.
  • Schemes like bicycles for teenage girls and scholarships also encouraged schooling.
  • It is leading to “a revolution of rising aspirations.
  • Now teenage girls do not want to get married till 21 and want a graduate degree.
  • They do not want to work in fields or do the manual work as their mothers did.
Non reporting
  • Some Women might be doing piece-rate work at home but neither she nor her family would identify this as proper work to surveyors.
Greater mechanisation in agriculture,
  • It has displaced some of the winnowing and threshing work that women do.
  • Real wages rose because of nonagricultural jobs growing and overall peak investment. However, since women apparently tend to be withdrawn from the workforce when family incomes increase, so less women are available for work outside the household. It is a peculiar form of “backward bending labour supply curve” for households, where labour supply falls when earnings rise, that is the outcome of patriarchy!
High unemployment rate:
  • Open unemployment is at a 45-year high of 6.1%.
  • Construction work has fallen, and manufacturing jobs like labour-intensive textiles industry, where women work — have fallen.
  • Women’s jobs are seen as more dispensable, and are lower-paid.
  • Less educated rural women who have lost farm jobs have few options apart from MGNREGA and self employment as small vendors.
    • The best thing for them is to boost self-help groups, for which funding has been increasing. In China, the non-farm rural economy has grown rapidly, and India needs a similar focus.
  • The only dignified jobs for rural women are as Asha or Anganwadi workers. Asha, Anganwadi and midday meal workers make up nearly a crore of women, who bear heavy responsibilities for the community’s nutrition and health, early childhood and maternal care but are not recognised as fixed workers.
  • Scaling up paid care-work - The government of India spends barely 1.2% of the GDP on health, roughly 3% on education. These are labour intensive sectors that employ women.
  • Expanding network of community frontline workers, and strengthening health and education and social services would not only directly employ women, it would shift the burden from the bulk of women who work at home without pay, and undergird the paid work of others.
  • Increasing public spending on traditionally unpaid “women’s work”.
  • Creating more accommodation for working women in semi-urban areas, improving transportation, starting skilling centres near manufacturing clusters, encouraging entrepreneurship.