Proportion of women in workforce declines

Arvind Jayaram Chennai | Updated on November 23, 2017

The number of women staff is higher in private sector firms.

Fewer women are participating in the Indian workforce today compared to two decades ago, according to recent data from the Ministry of Labour and Employment.

The proportion of women in the organised workforce as a percentage of the total female population declined between 2001 and 2011 after rising in the previous two decades.

The work participation rate for women was 25.6 per cent in 2001. This fell to 21.9 per cent in 2011-12, as per the 68th Round of the National Sample Survey. The worker participation rate for women had risen from 19.7 per cent in 1981 to 22.3 per cent in 1991.

Urban versus rural

But the decline in the participation rate from one-fourth of the female population to just a fifth in the 10 years to 2011 shows that working women continue to be the exception rather than the norm in India.

The data however does show that a growing number of women in the urban areas are confident of taking up jobs, with the participation rate rising from 11.9 per cent in 2001 to 14.7 per cent in 2011. But the participation rate in rural areas, which was as high as 30.8 per cent in 2001, fell to 24.8 per cent in 2011.

The survey found that women are mainly engaged as cultivators and agricultural labourers in rural areas. In urban areas, on the other hand, fourth-fifth of the working women are involved in unorganised sectors such as household industries, petty trade and services, building and construction. Women make up just a fifth of the organised sector workforce. The latest data shows that of the total organised sector employment in the country in 2010, 58.6 lakh women women accounted for 20.4 per cent of the total workforce.

Private sector

The proportion of women is higher in private sector companies — at 24.5 per cent of the total workforce — than the public sector (17.9 per cent).

Outside the corporate sphere, the proportion of women with central government jobs has risen sharply since 1991. Women accounted for 7.6 per cent of central government jobs in 1991, which declined slightly to 7.5 per cent in 2001. By 2009, this had jumped to 10 per cent of the total central government workforce.


Published on October 10, 2013

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