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Reconsidering Women’s Work in Rural India

Analysis of NSSO Data, 2004–05 and 2011–12

Mohammed Zakaria Siddiqui (zakariajnu@gmail.com) and Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt (kuntala.lahiri-dutt@anu.edu.au) are at the Australian National University, Canberra; Stewart Lockie (stewart.lockie@jcu.edu.au) is at the James Cook University, Queensland, Australia; and Bill Pritchard (bill.pritchard@sydney.edu.au) is at the University of Sydney.

The most recent data gathered by the National Sample Survey Office on work participation for women in India reveal a sharp decline, primarily due to the NSSO’s conventional measures not accounting for economic activities undertaken by women for the benefit of households. Alternative definitional approaches to the production boundary, such as the Indian System of National Accounts and the United Nations System of National Accounts, somewhat better account for unpaid work by women for households’ own consumption. An analysis of data from the part of the NSSO schedule on employment and unemployment (for 2004–05 and 2011–12) that enquires about various activities undertaken by individuals who report performing household activities as their principal activity, reveals a less dramatic decline than that presented by the more conventional measure of work participation. This finding contributes to a significant rethinking of how rural women’s contributions to economic activities for their own households can be better recognised through data.

The research presented in this paper was carried out under the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Project (DP14010101682), “Farmers of the Future: The Challenges of Feminised Agriculture in India.” We acknowledge the funding received by us for this study.

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