Decline of female labour force: Myth busted

“Women just don’t feel safe to go to school or to go to work,” said by International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.  Speaking at an event on October 15, 2019, she told that the labour force participation of women in India is quite low and one of the reasons was insecurity among them in workplace.

Do you think she is right? Is women in India don’t feel safe to go to school or to go to work? Is India a dangerous country for women? Her statement really malign the nation and draw away the attention of real improvements done by the government for the empowerment of women in India.

According  to the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO)’s latest round says that the proportion of active labour force declined twice for female between 2011-12 and 2017-18 compared to 2011-12 .The LFPR (labour force participation rate)  for females fell by 8 percentile points to 23.3 per cent in 2017-18 whereas LFPR for males dipped by 4 percentile points to 75.8 per cent. So only a quarter of the female workforce in the country were either working or seeking jobs.  The survey shows that  LFPR was far more in rural areas from 67.7 per cent to 58.7 per cent, than in urban areas from 49.3 per cent to 47.6 per cent. The gap in LFPR has narrowed between urban and rural areas due to a decline in the active labour force in villages. The female LFPR in urban areas are not yet declined it stayed almost the same level 20.4 per cent in 2017-18. But in rural areas it declined sharply by more than 11 per cent.  It is not due to the insecurity  of women at work place but the increase in literacy rate among female, lack of quality employment opportunities ,gender difference, marriage, motherhood, and patriarchy.  Apart from this  women in rural areas are engaged as cultivators and agricultural labourers. Another reason is wages increased for regular earners mainly men leading to the stabilisation of family incomes. This rising household income levels turns the women to drop out from paid labour. Also the relative prosperity in rural areas leads the young females opting to continue their education rather than join the labour force.  Moreover, women in India  from economically backward classes are benefiting the welfare schemes provided by the government.

Let us take a look at the welfare schemes for women

  • Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY) which was initiated to provide micro or small businesses with access to institutional finance up to Rs 10 lakh.
  • Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) is providing free cooking gas (LPG) connections to all poor households.
  • Beti Bachao Beti Padhao Yojana scheme helps to promote girls education and to improve the efficiency of welfare services intended for girls.
  • Mahila e-Haat, launched by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, is a unique direct online marketing platform leveraging technology for supporting women entrepreneurs/Self Help Groups/NGOs for showcasing the products/services which are made/manufactured undertaken by these women. Currently, this platform has impacted directly and indirectly over 26,000 SHGs and 3.75 lakh beneficiaries
  • Mahila Shakti Kendra is to empower rural women with opportunities for skill development, employment, digital literacy, health and nutrition.
  • Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) is the major government initiative that provides a platform to women for employment opportunities. It enhancing livelihood security in rural areas by providing at least 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year, to every household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work. The MGNREGS reserves minimum 33% for women participation and provides 100 days of guaranteed wage employment in a financial year to every rural HHs. Women participation has increased significantly and perceived it giving them a sense of independence and security.

The mentioned facts and figures prove that  the NDA government welfare schemes for women  in the past five-and-a-half years where remarkable and the implementation was successful which resulted the empowerment of women in weaker sections. As a result for women in rural areas the necessity to go  for a job in unorganised sector  which is highly physical demanding was drastically reduced. At the same time the number of  women  in professional related jobs had risen up. This is due to the impact of the scheme Beti Bachao Beti Padhao which provided awareness to the people in rural areas about the importance of education among girls resulted more women to occupy jobs in organised sectors.

The bit and pieces of the reports wrongly quoted and interpreted by some medias and NGO’s about the safety of women in India are purely based on an opinion poll, rather than any scientifically proven methodology or reports. The country’s National Commission for Women rejected these types of reports and  pointed out that rape, harassment and other forms of violence against women appear to have risen in India because more cases are being reported, driven by public outrage.

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