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Daily-current-affairs / 08 Apr 2024

Unlocking Potential: Addressing Challenges in Women's Employment in India : Daily News Analysis



The landscape of women's employment in India is a complex tapestry woven with socioeconomic, cultural, and structural threads. The India Employment Report, 2024, jointly released by the Institute for Human Development and the International Labour Organization, offers a comprehensive view of the labor market dynamics, shedding light on both positive trends and persistent challenges. While overall labor market indicators have shown signs of improvement in recent years, the report underscores the stark disparities in women's participation, highlighting the need for targeted interventions to address systemic barriers hindering their access to decent work opportunities.

Key Labour Market Indicators:

According to the India Employment Report, key labor market indicators have displayed a mixed trajectory over the years. While the Labour Force Participation Rate (LFPR), Workforce Participation Rate (WPR), and Unemployment Rate (UR) witnessed a long-term deterioration between 2000 and 2019, there has been a notable improvement thereafter. However, this improvement has been uneven, often coinciding with periods of economic distress, including the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these fluctuations, employment conditions remain a concern, particularly for women.

Women's Participation in the Labor Force:

A glaring disparity exists in the labor force participation between men and women in India. While the male LFPR stands relatively high at 78.5, the female LFPR lags significantly behind at 37, as per the 2023 figures. This discrepancy becomes even more pronounced when compared to the global female LFPR rate of 49, as reported by the World Bank. The decline in female LFPR since 2000, reaching a low of 24.5 in 2019 before a modest uptick, reflects systemic challenges that hinder women's access to gainful employment opportunities.

Experts, including Amit Basole from Azim Premji University, attribute the increase in women's labor force participation primarily to rural areas and self-employment, often characterized by unpaid work. This trend suggests a response to economic distress preceding the pandemic, where women are compelled to enter the labor force to mitigate financial hardships. However, the nature of this employment, predominantly unpaid and informal, underscores the need for deeper structural changes to ensure women's economic empowerment.

Employment Patterns and Challenges:

The India Employment Report delves into the employment patterns, revealing that women are disproportionately represented in self-employment and unpaid family work. The surge in self-employment post-2019, primarily comprising unpaid family workers, underscores the prevalence of informal and precarious work arrangements for women. Moreover, the declining share of regular employment opportunities exacerbates the challenges faced by women in accessing secure and remunerative work options.

Furthermore, the report highlights the global and regional trends concerning youth not in employment, education, or training (NEET). South Asia, including India, grapples with a significant proportion of NEET youth, with higher rates among young women. This underscores the multifaceted barriers hindering women's entry and retention in the labor force, ranging from structural inequalities to societal norms perpetuating gender roles.

Factors Contributing to Low Women's Participation:

Economists and women's rights experts identify a myriad of factors contributing to the low participation of women in the labor force. These barriers span from structural issues such as a dearth of job opportunities to deeply ingrained societal norms dictating women's roles primarily as caregivers and homemakers. Additionally, concerns over safety, lack of access to affordable childcare, and transportation further constrain women's ability to engage in formal employment outside their homes.

Jayati Ghosh's analysis underscores the multifaceted nature of women's labor force participation decline, attributing it not only to economic factors but also to broader sociocultural dynamics. While advancements in education have expanded opportunities for some women, the overall scarcity of paid work coupled with patriarchal norms perpetuates a cycle of exclusion from the labor market.

Recommendations for Change:

Addressing the systemic challenges hindering women's labor force participation necessitates multifaceted interventions targeting both the demand and supply sides of the labor market. On the demand side, policies promoting labor-intensive sectors and public investments in infrastructure, including safety and transportation, are imperative. Moreover, enhancing access to affordable childcare and eldercare facilities can alleviate caregiving burdens, enabling women to pursue employment opportunities outside their homes.

Claudia Goldin's research underscores the need for comprehensive strategies that acknowledge the interplay of familial responsibilities, education, and structural transformations in shaping women's labor market choices. By dismantling barriers to women's economic participation and fostering an enabling environment conducive to work-family balance, policymakers can unlock the full potential of the female workforce, driving inclusive growth and sustainable development.


While the India Employment Report, 2024, offers insights into the evolving labor market dynamics, it also serves as a clarion call for concerted action to address the persistent challenges faced by women in accessing decent employment opportunities. By recognizing the multifaceted nature of barriers, from societal norms to structural inequalities, stakeholders can chart a path towards gender-inclusive economic growth. Through targeted interventions aimed at promoting women's labor force participation and ensuring their meaningful integration into the formal economy, India can unleash the untapped potential of its female workforce, driving towards a more equitable and prosperous future.

Probable Questions for UPSC Mains Exam

1.    What are the primary challenges inhibiting women's participation in the labor force in India? Discuss the socio economic, cultural, and structural factors contributing to gender disparities in employment, and propose policy measures to promote gender-inclusive economic growth.(10 marks, 150 words)

2.    Analyze the impact of caregiving responsibilities, lack of affordable childcare, and safety concerns on women's labor force participation in India. Evaluate the implications of low female workforce participation for economic development and suggest strategies to enhance women's access to decent employment opportunities.(15 marks, 250 words)

Source – The Hindu