Gender Imbalance Continues in Indian Workforce

telangana woman sarpanch becomes labourer, Women in India: Woman labourers work at a road construction site

In India, the proportion between educated women and working women is unfortunately not the same. The contribution of women in the workforce of the country remains highly imbalanced. Female labour force participation is a driver of growth and therefore, participation rates indicate the potential for a country to grow more rapidly.


Economic growth has been high, averaging 6-7% in the 1990s and 2000s; fertility has fallen substantially; and female education has risen dramatically, albeit from a low-level. In other regions, including Latin America and the Middle East and North Africa, similar trends have led to large increases in female participation.

Yet National Sample Survey (NSS) data for India show that labour force participation rates of women aged 25-54 have stagnated at about 26-28% in urban areas, and fallen substantially from 57% to 44% in rural areas, between 1987 and 2011.

According to a report published by the International Labour Organisation,

-The rate of female labour force participation in South Asia was just 30.5 per cent in 2013, while the rate for men was 80.7 per cent.

– Female participation rates declined from 34.1 per cent in 1999-00 to 27.2 per cent in 2011-12, and wide gender differences in participation rate also persist.

– The participation rate of rural women decreased from 26.5 per cent in 2009-10 to 25.3 per cent in 2011-12 (usual status definition), while the rate for urban women increased from 14.6 per cent to 15.5 per cent over the same period.

The World Bank data analysis concludes

-The Ratio of female to male labour force participation rate dropped from 41 in 1990 to 2016.

– The Labor force participation rate of females fell from 35 in 1990 to 27 in 2016.  (% of female population ages 15+)

According to Reassessing Patterns of Female Labor Force Participation in India, a March 2017 report which analysed government data from 2004-05 to 2011-12.

19.6 million women dropped out of work in these years, out of which 43% were rural women. The shocking news about this is that it is equivalent to the population of Romania.


It is found that, while the proportion of regular wage-earners in households increased between 2004-05 to 2011-12, the proportion of self-employed persons and casual labour decreased, indicating the rising stability in family incomes. Thus, women didn’t feel the need to work and get some extra money for their family.

Another reason for the low proportion is that about 90% of India’s workforce is from the informal sector. The data for this sector is not easily available, thus making certain conclusions ambiguous.

At the same time, there are not many jobs in sectors like manufacturing and services like, textile and retail industries, which are considered as suitable for women.

Society is still plagued by patriarchy and gender roles, holding many women back from pursuing their career dreams. Many leave their jobs after their marriage.

There is a growing risk of security in workplaces where office sexual harassment is increasing. Cases of stalking and molestation by their co-workers compel women to opt out of the commercial sector.

Until we don’t make the environment safe for women to work, simultaneously promoting employment amongst women, we will continue to grow at a much slower rate. According to  an article published by Taipei Times, “India’s economy could achieve double-digit growth if the government drives ahead with reforms to increase women’s participation in the workforce.”

Picture By: Reuters

Also Read: Female Labour Force Participation Shrunk By 19.6 Million In India: World Bank Report

Jagriti is an intern with SheThePeople.TV