#Opinion

Why The Lower Employment Rate of Urban Indian Women Should Worry Us?

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My aunt is a teacher in a government school and also the first person who sowed the seeds of professionalism in me. Growing up and watching her doing her job with pure perfection and commitment gave me so much joy. It is not wrong to say that she was also the first person to introduce me to the definition of employed women. Since then, my life has been blessed with lots of incredible women who are excellent at their job.

Studying in an all women’s educational institution and spectating the working world closely, I have also noticed that there are enough women who can contribute significantly to the workforce but are unfortunately not doing so. As we delve deeper and deeper into the analysis of employment trends among women, the visibility of women in jobs and the overall employment sector starts to fade.

Lower Employment Rate Of Indian Urban Women

This declining trend in employment rates among women is not exclusive to any particular sector, rather can be seen in every sector. Even though there has been a recent rise in educational levels, a significant decrease in fertility rates, and growth in infrastructure, female labour force participation has been constantly declining. In 2017, the female labour force participation rate fell to its all-time low. According to World Bank (2017), India had the lowest FLFPR globally, with only the Arab nations of the world being ranked lower than the country.

The COVID-19 pandemic made the circumstances even worse specifically for urban women. The data from Consumer Pyramids Households Survey showed that the urban female labour force participation rate fell to 7.35% in the first month of lockdown, further dropping to 7.2% in October and 6.9% in November.

While we talk about dropping employment rates among urban women, it is crucial to understand the reasons behind it.

According to the research paper “Why is female labour force participation declining so sharply in India?” published by International Labour Office (2014), there are four identified reasons behind the fall i) Increasing attendance in educational institutions; ii) Increased household income; iii) Changes in measurement methodology across surveys, and iv) Insufficient job opportunities for women.


Suggested Reading: Career Vs Family: Why Society Needs To Stop Burdening Women With This Unfair Choice


The trend of dropping employment rates among women in urban areas is worrisome for the growth of the country. Urban areas are drivers of growth for a country and the country can only thrive when the population of both males and females work for it. It cannot rely on one gender. The drops also take us back to the prevalent gender gap in India, while a majority of contribution comes from the social structure of the nation, economic reasons are equivalently valid. The COVID19 pandemic has increased this gender gap by ten folds and it would take us many years to make recovery.

Research also shows that if women are provided with equal job opportunities, it can increase the country’s GDP by almost 10%.

Lower employment rates among urban women directly translate to low-income levels and increased concentration of women in occupations within the unorganized sector which further adds up to the existing gender gap in quality of job distributions among both the genders. Another issue that country needs to address is that these declining employment rates also mean that women are still lacking behind in getting jobs that recognize their qualifications and acknowledge their contributions. Women are still considered to be secondary earners in households and insufficient job opportunities restrict them from uplifting their social position.

This further becomes a reason for as to why the female population is poorer than the male population. Also in economic terms, the contribution of women is not aptly valued and when this is accompanied by low employment rates, it becomes much more difficult to beat the gender biases. Research also shows that if women are provided with equal job opportunities, it can increase the country’s GDP by almost 10%. All in all, the employment of women is a crucial issue that requires immediate attention.

The fight is not only about numbers but goes way back to biases and prejudices that the community has been facing since the beginning of time. It is also to be noted that urban women are major contributors to growth and the unavailability of opportunities for them means wasting a high proportion of the population that is skilled and sufficient.

I have changed three schools in my entire school life but as I went on to higher grades, year by year, the number of female teachers teaching me went lower and lower. A career that was introduced to me by women was no longer theirs. I have a vivid memory of being taught by all the male teachers in my twelfth grade. Fast forward to today, after living twenty years of my life and also being a critical spectator of the working world out there, I have fortunately or maybe, unfortunately, identified what was happening in my city and hope you could identify it too!