Declining Female Labour Force Participation

Demand- as well as supply-side factors constrain the labour force participation of rural women.


The female labour force participation rate (FLFPR) in India has been one of the lowest among the emerging economies and has been falling over time. This has resulted in a decrease in the ratio of working females to the population of females in the working age group. The FLFPR in India fell from 31.2% in 2011–12 to 23.3% in 2017–18. Further, the FLFPR for rural areas declined by more than 11 percentage points in 2017–18. Although there has also been a decrease in the labour force participation of rural males, the rate of decline was much sharper for rural women. Not only are women withdrawing from the labour force, they are also being outcompeted by men in the existing jobs in rural areas. This situation necessitates a deeper understanding of issues that hinder female labour force participation.

Low participation of women in the labour force in India is attributed to the lack of employment opportunities, rising education levels and household incomes, and problems in measurement, such as under-reporting of women’s work. However, rural distress in recent times has affected women the most as income-generating opportunities have disappeared. The problem of labour demand constraints or the lack of suitable job opportunities is acute for women in rural India, with a fall in the availability of farm jobs and the lack of economic opportunities in non-farm employment. Mechanisation of farm and non-farm activities has also reduced opportunities for work.

To read the full text Login

Get instant access

New 3 Month Subscription
to Digital Archives at

₹826for India

$50for overseas users

Updated On : 22nd May, 2019


(-) Hide

EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

Biden’s policy of the “return to the normal” would be inadequate to decisively defeat Trumpism.