India’s workforce has fewer women than it did six years ago: no more than 18% in rural areas are employed, compared to 25% in 2011-12 and 14% in urban from 15%. However, in urban areas, the percentage of women in salaried jobs has increased from 35.6% in 2004 to 52.1% in 2017, but continue to be under-represented compared to their presence in self-employed or casual work, according to an analysis of the latest government employment data by Azim Premji University researchers.
Women on the job
In 1993, nearly 33% of rural women were employed. By 2011-12, the last time the NSS EUS was conducted, this had fallen by eight percentage points to about 25%. The proportion of urban women dropped one percentage point to 15% in the two decades to 2011-12.
The 2017-18 PLFS survey estimates and indicates a further decline. Rural women’s workforce participation has fallen to 18%, and the participation of urban women is down to 14%.
The falling female workforce participation provides some reasons for this decline.
One explanation is that women withdraw from the workforce due to an ‘income effect’, that is an increase in the husband’s income which pushes up the household income.
Another reason is that women’s domestic and childcare responsibilities constrain them from participating in the labour market
However, there is some evidence which suggests that educated women with higher skills are demanding better jobs in cities.
Rural areas saw a similar pattern during this period, with a rise in the share of women in regular, salaried category and a decline in casual labour and self employed work. This rising share of women in regular work is a welcome development. Despite this rise, women continue to be under-represented in regular, salaried employment.
We found that among self-employed workers, men earn more than two times what women earn in both rural and urban areas. However, the information on earnings from self-employment is prone to reporting errors and has to be approached with caution. The estimates’ reliability can be ascertained only after comparing it with alternate data sources.
The hours men and women are putting in
The information on hours worked is another addition to the PLFS questionnaire. This is measured as the average number of hours worked in a week during the four quarters of the survey period from July 2017 to June 2018.
There are no significant differences between the percentage of men and women available for additional work in rural areas. In urban settlements, however, women workers in the self-employed and regular work categories report more hours available for work than men.
When self-employed, men work 12 hours more than women per week. And in regular and casual employment, men work seven hours more than women in a week. However, this does not necessarily imply that women work for fewer hours since women’s unpaid work is not accurately captured. The data on the number of hours worked can be better utilised after understanding women’s unpaid contribution inside and outside the household.
With covid-19 where salaried employees suffered, there was definitely an upsurge in the self employment especially from the women of the cities and rural areas.