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Why are Indian women out of the workforce?

India, home to 17% of the global female population, faces a disheartening challenge – a conspicuously low Female Labour Force Participation Rate (FLPR), reveals Quess Workforce Trends Report.

Despite 48% of its population being women, India’s FLPR is alarmingly low, ranging between 19% and 33%, akin to countries historically known for low female workforce engagement. This report delves into demand and supply-side factors underpinning India’s low female labour force participation and explores potential solutions to enhance women’s engagement in the workforce.

Persisting Gender Disparity
Globally, an escalating Female Labour Force Participation Rate (FLPR) is acknowledged as pivotal for growth and development. However, India, with a substantial female population, lags significantly in this metric. Surveys indicate a disheartening trend in India’s FLPR, notably lower compared to other developing nations. The World Bank data reveals India’s FLPR declining from 30-31% (1990-2007) to 24% in 2022, a stark contrast to the global FLPR of 47%.

Variation in Data
Multiple sources provide varying FLPR figures, adding complexity to the assessment. Government data, such as the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation’s periodic labour force survey and the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy’s (CMIE) independent reports, present disparate figures. The National Statistical Office’s periodic survey indicates an incremental increase in female participation since 2017. The PLFS reports that FLPR rose from 23.3% (2017-18) to 32.8% (2021-22).

However, CMIE’s household surveys diverge markedly. CMIE reports FLPR as low as 8.8% to 11.8% (2017-18 to 2022-23). For instance, their January-April 2022 survey reflects only 9% female participation compared to 66.4% male participation. Notably, a substantial discrepancy exists between the government’s projected FLPR (32.8% in 2021-22) and CMIE’s survey (9.2% in 2021-22).

Sectoral Distribution
Government surveys and reports offer insights into sectoral distribution. In the health sector, 52% of the female workforce is engaged, while education, financial services, and the IT/BPO sector employ 44%, 41%, and 36%, respectively.

For report,
CT Bureau

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