The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) along with Thought Arbitrage Research Institute (TARI), an Indian think-tank organization, conducted a study namely ‘Female Labour Force Participation in India,’ analysing India’s performance in female labour force participation (FLFP) in comparison with the rest of the world and making out factors that determine FLFP in India along with deterrents to its growth.
Though there was a rise in the number of working women in India during the period 2000-2005, growing from 34 per cent to 37 per cent, the female labour force participation rate has reduced continuously thereafter and reached 27 per cent in 2014, particularly during the period when the economy was experiencing unprecedented growth according to World Bank’s report on World Development Indicators.
There are certain basic reasons for low participation of women in the labour force like lack of access to higher education among women, lack of opportunities to work and even dearth of flexibility in working conditions likely to discourage women from joining the labour force as they turn to their domestic duties.
Another concerning aspect is that India rates lowest in terms of FLFP with a depressing score and a huge gap between it and the next among BRICS countries – China (64 per cent), Brazil (59 per cent), Russian Federation (57 per cent), South Africa (45 per cent) and India (27 per cent).
Further, the gap between rural male and female labour force participation in India in 2011 stood at about 30 per cent while in urban centres gap was more pronounced (about 40 per cent). “This can be attributed to social and cultural curtailment and often the lack of work opportunities.”
It has also been highlighted that in India, marriage diminishes the probability of FLFP by about eight per cent in rural areas and more than twice as much in urban areas.
According to the latest available data, the FLFP rate in India was about 36 per cent as of 2011-12, with 31 out of 35 states and union territories scoring rates below the national average, while only Andhra Pradesh (erstwhile), Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim are faring better in this regard.
The study suggested promoting skill training programmes for women, setting up child care centres in large numbers, ensuring women safety and security in every sphere through efforts by both the Central and state governments and other such measures are imperative to give impetus to female labour force participation in the country.
Considering that even a 10 per cent increase in FLFP rate can boost gross domestic product (GDP) by 0.3 per cent, according to The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), it is crucial to bring in relevant policy measures and programmes and implement those programmes effectively.
Initiatives such as Beti Bachao Beti Padhao, Make in India, Start-up India, among others are positive steps in the direction to propel female labour force participation in India; however, additional initiatives towards women’s empowerment need to be taken to create an enabling environment for improving female employment and entrepreneurship, noted the ASSOCHAM-TARI study.
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