Why are India's Women NOT Working in the Workforce?

Why are India’s Women NOT Working in the Workforce?

It will be very surprising for you to know that, in developing country like India, women participation in labour workforce is decreasing. From year 2004 to 2015, female labour participation dropped by about 2 crore. So why women labour participation in India is decreasing by such huge numbers?

Before getting into this topic firstly we should know about the term- LFPR. LFPR stands for Labour Force Participation Rate. It refers to percentage of working men and women from age 15 to 64, who are part of labour force.

Decreasing women participation in labour workforce throughout years.

If women LFPR in India increases than it will have many economic as well as social benefits. India’s GDP can increase by 27% if women LFPR increases.

Why is the female LFPR low?

In south Asia, India’s female labour force participation is lowest. All other countries of south Asia has higher women LFPR than India. Harvard Kennedy school publish a report using national sample survey showing details about this topic. The first thing they point out was that the women in India are willing to work. But they can’t participate due to many reasons.

First reason is, domestic duties. About 49.9% rural and 61.1% urban women are involved in domestic duties. Whereas men’s share is 0.5% and 0.3% respectively. The main reason behind this is women think if they will not perform domestic duties then nobody else will do. 60% rural and 64% urban women think in this way.

Second is Mobility or freedom to travel. Most of working force needs to travel to go to their work place. But this luxury is mainly available to Men. According to 2011 Census, in most big cities men travelled more than women. And many women need permission to go outside to work and also many women are not even able to go alone to work. This results into restriction of job options for women.

Third is wage gap. According to research, women were paid 34% less than men for performing the same job with same qualification. Another research shows that, if there will be no discrimination in salary than, women will be paid more than men. Reasons of wage gap are maternity leave and and not being possible to work late. Due to these reasons also employers pay less to women and by this women feel demotivated.

Why is the female LFPR falling in India?

Their are four major reasons behind the falling women LFPR. First two reasons are actually positive indicators of India’s development.

First reason behind this is, more women are gaining education. Women who got primary education and tertiary education have more participation in labour workforce than women who got secondary education. From year 2005 to 2010, around 2 crore women got secondary education. That is why women LFPR is decreasing.

Second reason is increase in household income. As more and more population in India is getting richer, female LFPR is decreasing. Women LFPR is highest in poor population and is lowest in the rich population.

Third reason is less job opportunities for women. Their are many reasons behind it. Most of the jobs created in India are irregular jobs like construction job which didn’t attract educated rural women. Also the regular jobs created are more male dominated and in banking sectors, oil and petroleum sector, telecom and power and steel sector.

Fourth reason behind this is measurement. Women who attended domestic duties and were also engaged in the free collection of goods for household use are, classified by NSSO as economically inactive. Also the housework that women do is not considered as contribution in GDP or growth.


First and most important is to change perception about women regarding their work, travel or their household duties. Campaigns should be run to increase the share of women in LFPR. To improve transport and infrastructure can also help. Also women oriented jobs creation can help. The platforms should be built to provide information about job opportunities. Rural manufacturing should be motivated to create more job opportunities for women.

Thank you for reading!