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Declining Female Labour Force Participation

What is the current scenario of female labour force participation rate (FLFPR) in India?

1. It is one of the lowest among emerging economies and has been falling over time.

2. This has resulted in a decrease in the ratio of working females to the population of females in the working age group.

3. The FLFPR in India fell from 31.2% in 2011-12 to 23.3% in 2017-18.

4. It declined for rural areas by more than 11% in 2017-18.

5. Although there has also been a decrease in the labour force participation of rural males, the rate of decline is sharper for women.

Why this trend?

1. Lack of employment opportunities such as fall in availability of farm jobs and lack of economic opportunities in non-farm employment due to mechanization.

2. Rising education levels and household incomes.

3. Problems in measurement such as under-reporting of women’s work.

4. The time spent on domestic chores has also hindered women’s participation in the workforce.

5. Rigid segregation of gender roles dictated by patriarchal norms that are further perpetuated by religious taboos and cultural biases in rural areas.

How does this affect women?

1. The burden of domestic work and unpaid care inhibits women’s ability to acquire skills for better jobs.

2. Workers under MNREGA are entitled to free onsite childcare provided by their employers but this is rarely done in reality, which limits the number of women employees.

3. For the unorganized sector, options are limited as compared to women in the organized sector such as Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017. This keeps women out of labour force.

Where lies the solution?

1. There is a need for basic amenities and infrastructure for childcare facilities and care homes for the elderly to facilitate the entry of women in the workforce.

2. Higher expenditures on the existing policies such as MNREGA and Integrated Child Development Services.

3. Providing vocational training to suit the rapidly changing production process.

4. Targeted policies by the state such as providing job quotas and credit to women.