A relook into the causes of decline in rural female labour force participation in India

As an economy transforms from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy, a decline in participation of female labour force is observed. The decline observed in rural female labour force participation is due to a complex mix of several forces working simultaneously. An article from Vikalpa takes a look at structural transformation of the economy and its resultant impact on the female labour market in the whole process.

With an increase in income levels of the households, a woman no longer prefers working as an unpaid worker or a helper or as a casual worker unless the work is remunerative. However, such opportunities are limited in rural India and as a result women are not finding jobs matching their preference (regular part-time jobs close to their households). Furthermore, with low skill levels, the opportunities available in rural India which are compatible with their education levels are dying out.

Dedicated efforts in improving their educational outcomes through infrastructure development, female teacher availability, incentives along with creating an adequate number of favourable job opportunities are necessary to harness their potential. Considering the constraints experienced by the rural females to enter the labour force policy initiatives are required to make them economically active. The initiatives should focus on microfinance-supported self-help group-centred activities, which will make them economically active along with handling domestic duties. Furthermore, rural manufacturing should create jobs that can be undertaken by women in their household or as a community. Such focused steps can increase the participation of rural females back into the labour force.

For females in the 15–24 age group who are about to enter the labour force, vocational and basic skills training need to be provided so that they can enter the labour market overcoming social inhibitions and restrictions. Lack of adequate infrastructure in terms of roads and connectivity can also be deterring women from undertaking work in the nearby areas. Thus, improving connectivity between the villages and the satellite towns and small cities will also enhance female labour force participation.

India has already started realizing its demographic dividend and female population which account for nearly 50 per cent of the population is an asset to be utilized carefully if we have to reap this window of opportunity. A bubbling rural economy is the need of the hour to create jobs and absorb the bulging economically active female population.

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