Data Watch: Are fewer women working in India now than before?

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India’s wealth has been growing steadily for the last few years, and our economy has been booming. But does that come with a price? Since men are earning more than they did before, the Indian household is fine running on just a man’s salary. The woman is either asked to quit her job to take care of the house and the kids or not allowed to work at all, in conservative families. According to a report in the Economic Times, only one in five women in India are in the workforce. This is a very harrowing number as there is so much talent and charisma in Indian women. It also concerning because this trend may slow down India’s economic growth, experts say.


It seems that some women are also voluntarily not taking up jobs. According to a UN survey, India’s participation rate has dropped by 8% since the 1980s. In the coming years, India can easily surpass China in being the country with the largest work force, however, Priyanka Kishore, a lead Asia economist at Oxford Economics says, “But in the absence of a substantial pick-up in the participation rates, the country appears ill-placed to take advantage of this demographic boom.”

  • Overall participation of women in the labor force has fallen by 8% since 2004-05
  • Women comprise of just about 15% of all urban workers in India
  • Participation rates are lowest amongst urban women at 20%
  • Participation rates are highest amongst rural males at 80%
  • Women in India earn only 56% of what their male colleagues earn for the same work

Source: Catalyst.org, Economic Times


By 2020, India will have about a billion people willing to join the workforce, but unless the economy grows at a steady 10%, all these people won’t be able to get jobs. So, why are women shying from getting jobs? There are a few reasons that can be considered. Women are under a lot more stress at work today, and many quit just to take care of their health and spend more time with loved ones. There is also a pay gap between the two genders, and women get discouraged when they are not paid what they deserve. Some women don’t have the luxury of choice, and are told by their husbands or in-laws, that they don’t need to work anymore, or can’t work at all.

Until we fix these issues, and encourage more women to take up jobs and stand on their own feet, the economy cannot grow at a steady pace. These topics should be the concern of the government, and they should know that women are a key part of the Indian economy. Making women grow goes hand in hand with making the economy grow.

Also read: Sikkim is safest for working women, Delhi the worst