Women empowerment issues – Jobs,Reservation and education

Indian women’s labor force participation is declining


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: Women's declining labour participation, analysis and solutions



  • According to the World Bank report released in June 2022, Indian women’s labour force participation proportion of the population over the age of 15 that is economically active has been steadily declining since 2005 and is at a low of 19 percent in 2021.

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How the experts are analysing the falling participation of women?

  • Patriarchy in continuity: According to some experts there is continuities of patriarchal oppression and structural barriers to women’s economic participation in India.
  • Informal economy not accounted: Other group of experts says these claims fail to acknowledge that this measure does not capture women’s participation in the informal economy.
  • Preference for home-based work: In developing economies such as India, women are concentrated in the informal sector and demonstrate a preference for home-based work opportunities that allow them to balance their domestic duties with income-generating activities.
  • Social consideration: It is simplistic and instrumental link between women’s labour force participation and measures of societal development.
  • Reductionist approach: It is important to move beyond reductionist explanations and probe how women’s employment operates in specific contexts. This calls for a more comprehensive understanding of women’s decision-making and navigation around employment.


Economy theory about women participation in labour force

  • Standard economic theory: Standard economic theory predicts that as household income increases, women withdraw from devalued labour because their income is no longer required to run the household.
  • Income employment: As household income rises and educational attainment improves, women re-enter the workforce.
  • Mismatch of skills: But for moderately educated women from upwardly mobile families, there is often a mismatch between available jobs and their skills and ambitions.
  • Aversion towards low-paid jobs: As their families are in the process of claiming middle-class status, young women are often averse to taking up low-paid jobs in the formal economy.
  • Class and social mobility: If they are unable to secure high-status white-collar jobs, they prefer home-based work such as tailoring or running tuitions for young children. Thus, women’s employment preferences are often intertwined with family-centred projects of class and social mobility.


Study of ground reality about women employment

  • Facilitated study group: In a recent study, facilitated study group (FSG) interviewed 6,600 women of working age from low-income communities across 16 cities in India.
  • Small job and business: It found that women’s ability to work outside the home is defined by the views of their family members who prefer women working from home or engaging in a small business to allocate more time to household responsibilities. But 59 percent of women prefer jobs in the formal sector over entrepreneurship.
  • Less use of child care: Less than 1 percent of working mothers with children under 12 years old have used paid childcare services. 89 percent are unwilling to use paid childcare services.
  • Preference to family care: Affordability isn’t a key factor in not considering paid day-care. It’s because mothers do not trust day-care services as they do not provide ‘family-like’ care.
  • Balancing the familial expectations: These findings suggest that Indian women’s employment-related decisions are shaped by considerations of providing caregiving to their children and balancing their preferences with familial expectations.

What should be the right approach about women participation?

  • Family responsibility and career: women, especially in low-income communities in India, have a composite view of their lives (jobs, enterprises, care work, upholding traditions, and community connections) and navigate through these with their household and extended family.
  • Comprehensive view of life: The non-compartmentalisation emerges from a culturally embedded and empirically grounded perspective that does not view culture as a limitation, but as a resource and enabler that provides a comprehensive valuation for all kinds of work that women do (informal and formal).
  • Understanding the cultural context: This translates into everyday negotiations that have less to do with upturning the current social structure and more with negotiating for increased autonomy within the cultural context.
  • Flexible working Hours: Policy solutions must derive from the negotiations women are interested in undertaking with their employers around home-based work or flexible working hours. It is important to perceive women’s employment goals as reflective of preferences defined not only by their gender but also by their social and cultural context.



  • The breakdown of the family structure and caregiving systems in developed economies offers an important lesson. If Indian women want to participate in the formal labour force while retaining their family structure, this preference should be accommodated in institutional and interpersonal responses.

Mains Question

Q. In the context of world bank report analyse the declining participation of women in labour force. What should be the right approach to increase the participation of women in labour force?

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