ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

Measuring Participation and Contribution of Rural Men and Women in Indian Agriculture

The unit-level data of the recently released Time Use Survey 2019 was used to analyse the participation and contribution of men and women engaged in agriculture and allied sectors for states and union territories of India. The pattern of daily time use in other activities like unpaid work, leisure, and self-care have also been presented. There is a need to share the unpaid domestic and care work for enhanced participation and contribution of women in agriculture.

Agriculture sector plays an important role in the livelihood of people in India, providing employment and income. This sector has shown resilience in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic when most of the other sectors of economy have registered marginal or negative growth. The share of agriculture and allied sectors in the gross value added (GVA) of the country at current prices in 2019–20 was 16.5%. Although the growth of GVA in 2019–20 was only 2.8% as compared to 6.3% in 2016–17, it was higher than all the other sectors of economy (GoI 2020).

Women play a key role in agriculture in India apart from the reproductive role, household activities, caregiving, involvement in the society/community, etc. They provide critical labour by carrying out large number of activities in agriculture, namely land preparation, sowing operations, planting, weeding, pest control, harvesting, threshing, winnowing, management of livestock and fisheries, storage, processing, and marketing.

The world of women’s work, especially in agriculture, has generally been studied and discussed from the perspective of participation. Participation indicates involvement or being engaged in an activity and denotes the qualitative aspect whether or not a person is carrying out an activity. Contribution, on the contrary, is quantification of the participation and has two dimensions, that is, being engaged (or not) and the duration of engagement. Data on participation are widely available from sources like the census exercise, the periodic National Sample Survey, and the small-scale field studies. Most of the discourse on women in agriculture in India is built on the data on participation and very often, unknowingly, the participation in agriculture is taken as the contribution that presents a narrative far away from the truth. This issue has been lucidly raised by Doss (2011) and Doss et al (2018) citing “four myths.” The study on quantifying the participation in agriculture requires deeper involvement of time and resources by the researchers and such a study is hard to find. To fully understand the world of women’s work, there is need to study not only their participation in myriad activities from dawn to dusk in various farming situations but also specific to crop/livestock/other enterprises.

Gupta and Gupta (1987) estimated that women contribute 59% and 66% of agricultural labour in two villages in India. The participation of women was also reported in agricultural activities like weeding (72.2%), threshing (52.8%), and winnowing (77.8%), in livestock activities except heathcare (13.9%), and marketing of produce (6.7%) besides other activities like fodder collection, drying, feeding, cleaning, milking, and processing milk (Singh and Srivastava 2018). Con­tribution of women to labour requirement in agriculture across six sub-Saharan African countries revealed that the average female labour share in crop production was estimated to be 40% using individual, plot-level labour input data from nationally representative household surveys. In Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda, the female labour share was little over 50%, Nigeria 37%, Ethiopia 29%, and Niger 24%, and they all were substantially lower than the widely quoted figure of 60%–80% (Palacios-Lopez et al 2017).

Women participating in agricultural activities face a number of challenges that limit the human potential they have. The challenges are in the form of social barriers, lower asset ownership, technological constraints, and institutional bias. In spite of the real challenges that they come across, the advocacy for the women’s cause in agriculture often gets exaggerated.

The Time Use Survey (TUS) provides an important insight into the participation and contribution of women in different activities. Jain and Chand conducted the first mini-TUS called the “Time Allocation Survey (TAS)” (Jain 1996) in two states—Rajasthan and West Bengal—based on 127 households; the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MoSPI) conducted the first official pilot TUS in 1998–99 across six states in India—Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, and Meghalaya—based on 18,591 households; the National Statistical Office (NSO 2020) conducted the first nationwide TUS on 1,38,799 households and covered the entire country except Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Deshpande 2021).

The report of the first Time Use Survey-2019 (TUS-2019) was recently released (September 2020), which is a document of over 2,000 pages that covers the activities of men and women in nine major divisions, but it speaks nothing about those participating in agriculture and allied activities. The present study looked into the unit-level data with over 10.68 million records of the TUS-2019 study and took out those engaged in agriculture and allied activities. This is the first-ever study to estimate gender disaggregated participation, time use, and contribution in agriculture for states and India.

There has been considerable exasperation in literature of women’s participation in agriculture and many times the participation has been misunderstood as contribution, thereby eulogising them to the status of demi-god, and in this process the worldly hurdles they face are often relegated. There have been reports that say that women constitute 65%–76.6% of the total agricultural workforce (Planning Commission 2012; Ghosh and Ghosh 2014; Bedi 2018; Dudi et al 2019), 55%–71% of the labour force in livestock farming (Planning Commission 2002, 2007; FAO 2013; Singh et al 2020), 77% participation in animal care, 93% participation in dairy (FAO 2013), produce between 60% and 80% of food, responsible for half of world’s food production (Mehra and Rojas 2008; FAO (2021); Dutt 2017), involved in 55%–80% of all farm-related work (Dutt 2017; MAKAAM 2021; Pachauri 2019; Oxfam International 2020), etc.

At the same time, several researchers analysed the Census (2011), the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) 68th Round (2011–12), and the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) (NSO 2019) data and estimated the participation of men and women in agriculture and reported the facts based on the available data. Siddiqui et al (2017) estimated that 27.8% of all working-age rural women were involved in agriculture (NSSO 68th round 2011–12). Deb (2020) reported that there were 73.4% of female workers (rural) in usual status work in agriculture, mining, and quarrying (PLFS 2017–18). Pattnaik and Dutt (2020) mentioned that 65% of women work in agriculture as compared to 42% of men.

The article attempts to make a distinction between participation and contribution and presents the estimate of participation and contribution of men and women in rural areas of India using the first TUS-2019. The article ensues by describing the data and methodology, empirical findings on the participation of men and women along with contribution in agriculture and allied activities, followed by the conclusion. In this article, the term “agriculture” means “agriculture and allied activities including crop and livestock sector” and the data are presented for rural India only.

Data and Methodology

The data used for this study were taken from the first TUS-2019 conducted by the NSO (2020), which included all states and union territories of India. The data set contained 10.68 million records from which the relevant records were extracted for analysis. Since agriculture was the focus of this study, only rural areas were considered. In the rural areas, data were collected from 2,72,117 individuals (above six years of age) (1,37,730 male, 1,34,319 female and 68 transgender) from 82,897 households. The activities reported by respondents over a period of 24 hours were recorded for every 30 minutes (min) and codified (three-digit code) into nine major divisions and 165 activities according to the International Classification of Activities for Time Use Statistics 2016 (ICATUS 2016). Thirteen activities falling under major divisions 1 and 2 were considered as agricultural activities (Table 1).

Analysis of data: The relevant variables were extracted from the unit-level data available as text files using Stata software. The different activities carried out in a day by an individual were consolidated. Thereafter, the total number of unique individuals and unique individuals for each major activity were identified. Then, the number of persons represented by each individual was calculated by multiplying the unique individuals with the final weight. Finally, minutes spent on each major activity by each individual (projected to the number of persons represented by them) were obtained by multiplying the minutes spent and the final weight.

Participation rate was calculated as the percentage of person’s age performing that activity during the 24 hours of the reference period. The average time spent on an activity was calculated by taking into account the total time spent by those who participated in the activity. Participation (relative share in agriculture) of men and women was calculated as the percentage of those involved in agriculture. The contribution of men and women in different sectors of agriculture was calculated by aggregating the total time spent by them and thereafter calculating their relative share.

Of the 82,897 households surveyed for this study in the rural areas covering all states and union territories of India, 57.3% of the households were engaged in agricultural and allied activities. Again, 22.45% of the rural households were engaged in livestock-related activities. Thus, of the agricultural households, 39.2% households owned livestock. Participation, time spent, relative share (participation), and contribution of men and women in agriculture as a whole, and in crop and livestock sectors have been given in Table 2. Figure 1 (p 23) explains the dynamics of participation and contribution of women and men in states in two major sectors of agriculture, that is, crops and livestock considering uniform class intervals.


Participation in agriculture by the respondents were grouped under one of the 13 activities (Table 1) that fell under either of the two major divisions, namely employment and related activities (1) or production of goods for own final use (2). Analysis of participation in agriculture by men and women under the two major divisions mentioned above has not been covered separately in this article, and the two divisions have been grouped into one for this study.

However, to give a glimpse, it was found that 28.55% of the persons in rural areas participated in agriculture and allied activities. In other words, in rural areas 28.55% of the persons participated in agriculture who lived in 57.3% of the rural households that were engaged in agricultural and allied activities. In rural areas, 16.61% of the persons participated in agriculture under major division 1, that is, employment in agriculture and allied activities, whereas 14.09% were under major division 2, that is, agriculture and allied activities for own final use. There were 2.16% persons who participated in agriculture under both the major divisions. In the ensuing paragraphs, “participation” in agriculture has not been qualified with the term “work participation” because the status of the workers does not encompass those engaged in “agriculture and allied activities for own final use,” whereas participation in this article denotes all who are engaged in, in either of the two major divisions.

The study revealed that in rural areas, 22.4% of women (age 6+ years) and 34.6% of men (age 6+ years) participate in agriculture and allied activities, including crop and livestock sector, spending on an average 233 min/day and 330 min/day, respectively. Sector-wise estimates revealed that in the crop sector, 13.3% of women participate and spend 274 min/day as against 28.9% rural men spending 330 min/day. Similarly, for the livestock sector, participation was 10.7% with 129 min/day for women and 10.8% with 147 min/day for men.

Among the states and union territories, Gujarat had the highest male participation in agriculture (45.8%), followed by Mizoram (44.4%), Maharashtra (43.7%), Karnataka (42.3%), etc. Fifteen states and union territories had male participation more than the country’s average (34.6%). Very low male participation in agriculture was observed in Chandigarh, Delhi, and Goa. Among the states and union territories, Himachal Pradesh had the highest female work participation in agriculture (46.4%), followed by Rajasthan (38.6%) and Nagaland (37.5%) and the lowest was in Lakshadweep (4.7%), followed by Bihar (8.8%) and Goa (8.8%). Nineteen states and union territories had female participation more than the coun­try’s average (22.4%). Sector-wise parti­cipation depicts that gender parity is more in livestock sector (10.8% men, 10.7% women) than the crop sector (28.9% men, 13.3% women). States with higher male work participation in agriculture are due to relatively more involvement of males in crop sector and those with higher female participation were due to higher participation in the livestock sector.


Time spent: With respect to time spent, Telangana had the highest average time spent per day by men in agriculture (390 min), followed by Mizoram (379 min) and Punjab (372 min). On the contrary, Chandigarh has the lowest time spent (180 min), followed by Lakshadweep (223 min) and Kerala (235 min). Among the states and union territories, Telangana had the highest time spent by women in agriculture (349 min), followed by Mizoram (314 min) and Maharashtra (304 min) and the lowest was observed in Lakshadweep (79 min), followed by Goa (101 min) and Assam (122 min).

Relative share of men and women in agriculture: Of the total workforce engaged in agriculture, 38.7% are women, the rest (61.3) being men. Share of women in the livestock sector is much higher (49.1%) as compared to the crop sector (31.1%). Considering agriculture as a whole, the highest share of women was observed in Goa (72.6%). Five states and union territories had higher relative share of women participation than men. In the crop sector also, the highest share of women was in Goa (74.5%), whereas in livestock, Rajasthan (69.2%) had the highest share of women of the total workforce engaged. Uttarakhand is the only state having higher share of women in all the three categories, that is, overall agriculture, crop, and livestock sectors.


Contribution in agriculture was arrived by projecting the participation rate to population, multiplying with the time spent per day and thereafter calculating the relative share of men and women. It was observed that women contribute 30.8% and men 69.2% of the total time required in agriculture. In the crop sector alone, women’s time contribution was 27.2% as against 72.8% by men. In the livestock sector, women’s time contribution was 45.8% as against 54.2% by men. This substantiates the general perception that women contri­bute on a much higher scale in livestock management activities in the country than that in crop production activities.

Among the states and union territories, Himachal Pradesh had the highest female contribution in agriculture (57.5%), followed by Uttarakhand (56.1%) and Goa (52.4%) and in these three states the contribution of women was higher than men. Contribution of women was higher than men in three states and union territories in the crop sector and eight in the livestock sector. In Uttarakhand, women’s contribution was found to be higher than men in both the crop and livestock sectors. Lakshadweep had the lowest contribution of women in agriculture (6.3%), followed by Bihar (13.2%) and West Bengal (15.2%) (Table 2, p 22).


Pattern of daily time spent: Time use analysis of men and women engaged in agriculture in rural areas of India revealed that, men spent on an average 311 min/day in agricultural activities as compared to women (234 min/day). Daily time spent in unpaid work (domestic + caregiving + others) by women was 293 min as compared to 91 min by men (Figure 2).

For women, the total working time per day was 574 min (9.5 hour) as compared to 483 min (7.9 hour) by men. In other words, women worked 91 min more than men per day. When the working time of men and women was projected to actual population, it was calculated that of the total working time required to run an agricultural household, women contribute 53.2% of the time and men 46.8%. Further, women get about 50 min/day less time in learning, socialising, and leisure and 41 min/day less time for self-care including sleep as compared to the men. The participation and contribution of women in agriculture is less because they put in 3.2 times more time in unpaid domestic and care activities than men (293 versus 91 min/day).

In Conclusion

Using the unit-level data of TUS-2019, the study has revealed that women contribute 53.2% of labour in the agricultural household in rural areas as compared to 46.8% by men. On a daily basis, women put in 1.6 hours more than men. They get less time for learning, socialisation, and self-care. Because of the burden of unpaid domestic and care work, their participation in agriculture is lower (22.4% women versus 34.6% men) and their contribution is also lower by 30.8% than men (69.2%). If the burden of unpaid domestic and care work is shared equally, the participation and contribution of women will increase. There is a need to develop and strengthen institutional arrangements like anganwadi kendras (day-care centres) in rural areas to take care of the growing children for enhanced participation of women in agriculture as well as other sectors.


Bedi, B (2018): “The Centre Is Barely Serious About Recognising Women as Farmers,” Wire, 30 July, viewed on 12 May 2021,

Census (2011): “Census of India 2011,” Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India,

Deb, S (2020): “Women and Work in India: State-Level Analysis,” Social Change, Vol 50, No 1, pp 160–68.

Deshpande, Ashwini (2021): “What Did You Do in the Last 24 Hours? Some Reflections on India’s First Time Use Survey in Historical Perspective,” India Forum, 1 January,

Doss, C (2011): “If Women Hold Up Half the Sky, How Much of the World’s Food Do They Produce?” ESA Working Paper No 11–04, FAO,

Doss, C, Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Agnes Quisumbing and Sophie Theis (2018): “Women in Agriculture: Four Myths,” Global Food Security, Vol 16, pp 69–74.

Dudi, K, I Devi and R Kumar (2019): “Contribution and Issues of Women in Livestock Sector of
India: A Review,” International Journal of Livestock Research, Vol 9, No 8, pp 37–48.

Dutt, T (2017): “Role of Indian Women in Agriculture,” Research Journal of Philosophy and Social Sciences, Vol 43, No 1, pp 115–20.

FAO (2013): “Gender Equality and Food Security: Women’s Empowerment as a Tool against Hunger,”

— (2021): Women: The Key to Food Security: “Women and Sustainable Food Security,”, 16 May.

Ghosh, M M and A Ghosh (2014): “Analysis of Women Participation in Indian Agriculture,” International Journal of Gender and Women’s Studies, Vol 2, No 2, pp 271–81.

GoI (2020): “Economic Survey 2019–2020,” Ministry of Finance, Government of India.

Gupta, R and B K Gupta (1987): “Role of Women in Economic Development,” Yojana, Vol 31, No 18, pp 28–32.

Jain, Devaki (1996): “Valuing Work: Time as a Measure,” Economic & Political Weekly, Vol 31, No 43, pp WS46–WS57.

MAKAAM (2021): Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch,, 12 May.

Mehra, R and M H Rojas (2008): A Significant Shift: Women, Food Security and Agriculture in a Global Marketplace, Washington: International Center for Research on Women,

NSO (2019): “Periodic Labour Force Survey 2017–18,” National Statistical Office, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India, pp 1–643.

— (2020): “Time Use in India–2019,” National Statistical Office, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India, pp 1–2140,

Oxfam International (2020): “India: Women Farmers Persevere,” (13.05.2021).

Pachauri, S (2019): “The Invisibility of Gender in Indian Agriculture,” Down to Earth, 19 February,

Palacios-Lopez, Amparo, Luc Christiaensen and TalipKilic (2017): “How Much of the Labor in African Agriculture Is Provided by Women?” Food Policy, Vol 67, pp 52–63.

Pattnaik, Itishree and Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt (2020): “What Determines Women’s Agricultural Participation? A Comparative Study of Landholding Households in Rural India,” Journal of Rural Studies, Vol 76, pp 25–39.

Planning Commission (2002): “Report of the Working Group on Animal Husbandry and Dairying for the Tenth Five Year Plan (2002–2007),” Government of India.

— (2007): “Report of the Working Group on Animal Husbandry and Dairying for the Eleventh Five Year Plan (2007–2012),” Government of India.

— (2012): Report of the Working Group on Animal Husbandry and Dairying for the Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012–2017),” Government of India.

Siddiqui, Mohammed Zakaria, Kuntala Lahiri-Dutt, Stewart Lockie and Bill Pritchard (2017): “Reconsidering Women’s Work in Rural India,” Economic & Political Weekly, Vol LII, No 1, pp 45–52.

Singh, B and S Srivastava (2018): “Women’s Involvement in Agriculture and Livestock Activities in Arid Region of Rajasthan, India,” Annals of Arid Zone, Vol 55, Nos 1–2, pp 37–43.

Singh, K, P Singh, N Sinha and N Ahmad (2020): “An Overview of Livestock and Dairy sector: Strategies for Its Growth in Eastern Indian State of Bihar,” International Journal of Livestock Research, Vol 10, No 9, pp 13–24.


Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here

Updated On : 8th Jul, 2022
Back to Top